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".

Sunday, December 23, 2018

'tis the Season!

Whoa, where has the time gone? The year is almost over and it's been quite a busy one!

My little Poinsettia from last year is blooming again.  Shown here next to the masham fleece I felted in the shower.

Handspun handknit qiviut/silk wimple. So soft and warm!

Some felted collars with the masham fleece, all done in the shower.

December 1-2nd I shared a booth with my friend Sue Flanders at the American Swedish Institute's Julmarknad in Minneapolis, MN.

Sue is a talented potter and a co-author of two knitting books (Swedish Handknits and Norwegian Handknits).

What a wonderful venue and such friendly people! I sold all my felt pelts except for this beautiful Norwegian spelseau that I just made a couple weeks ago.

I would have made more product in November, but I was a bit preoccupied with house renovations and my studio being repainted. I love how bright and open the studio feels now.

We finally got our interior doors and window trim done. It's like having a whole new house!
Our foyer now has closet doors and French doors to the spare bedroom.

French doors and laundry area doors

After Christmas we'll tackle the spiral staircase! I can't wait to see it turn into reality. No more climbing the ladder. We plan to build a bookcase in the wall behind it and create a wine/root cellar downstairs.
The ewes and ram lambs are separated, I don't want any lambs in 2019. I still have lots of beautiful Gotland cross lambs from this spring. I'm looking forward to their first shearing. This is one of my favorite ewe lambs, Gretta. She is out of my oldest Shetland ewe, River Oaks Camille. So sweet!

And this is my favorite ram lamb, Frankie, on his birthday which was just two days after my mom passed away in June. He's out of Bertha, a Teeswater/BFL triplet ewe. I'm loving his fleece!

 Now that I can make felted fleeces in the shower, I might be able to make a dent in the pile of fleeces in my studio this winter rather than having to wait until spring when there will be 33 more to  do!

 Happy holidays  and thanks so much to all my friends, students and customers who have made this a wonderful year. I am looking forward to doing more shows as well as teaching and taking more classes in 2019.
Christmas cactus blooming again this year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Great Maker's Exchange, Sheep for sale

It's been a busy summer! My mom passed away in June and we hosted her celebration of life. I taught a class at the Textile Center in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Feltmaker's Guild, and then two classes at the Midwest Felting Symposium in Madison, and  felted fleece class at North House Folk School. I had a couple small groups here to do felted fleeces also.

This weekend I'll be at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for the 2018 Great Maker's Exchange. This is a new venue for me, I will be demonstrating in my booth. Last weekend Sid and I did a booth at our friend's winery, Northern Hollow Winery in Grasston, MN.  We've only made it to the Isle Farmer's Market once this summer. So much going on all the time!

Oh my,  I never even posted the photos of the lambs born here this spring! Lambing in May was delightful, all the ewes and lambs did well (except for a stillborn triplet, so sad). But it sure was nice to go out in the morning with coffee to be with the newborn lambs and their mamas without having to bundle up. No heat lamps or chilled lambs. And fly strike was not an issue.

So now I have 20 Gotland cross lambs of varying colors and patterns. There are 10 ewe lambs and 10 ram lambs. I have wethered four of the ram lambs already. The other six will be done next week unless someone would like a breeding ram for a fiber flock. There are some nice contenders for that job! I have two of each sex in white, black, gulmoget (mouflon), and English blue, also three Ag grey, and just one that is brown based. There were the quietest lambs I've ever had -- and so friendly!
I can't wait to see how their fleeces turn out.

But I will have to sell some ewes in order to retain the ewe lambs.
So that brings me to my sales list. All sheep are priced from $100 to $150.
I have five ewes to sell and two wethers as well as the 10 male Gotland cross lambs.
First of all, I have Wanda, the Wensleydale and her twin daughters and a wethered son.
Wanda is 5 years old, 67% Wensleydale/33% BFL. She has lambed twins twice without any issues. She's calm and quiet. Her fleece is wonderful for making cobweb felt or just using as locks. $100
Her 2015 twin daughters and wethered 2016 twin son, are 47% Teeswater.  They all have beautiful long lustrous locks. I just rinse and use the locks in felting projects, but they would be great for spinning art yarn too. $150 each

Cookie and Candy, 50% Shetland, 47% Teeswater, white, 2 years old, twins, both had singles unassisted as first time mothers. Their fleeces are quite soft, not as purly as their Teeswater genetics would suggest. $125 each
Arnie, is 62% Gotland and 38% Shetland, he''s a yearling wether, very friendly. I rooed him this spring. Again, Arnie's fleece is very soft blue grey, not purly. $125

And there are 10 male Gotland lambs of various colors priced from $100 to $125 each. I can't say what their fleeces will be like yet. But Curly (out of one of the Teeswater/Wensleydale/BFL ewes mentioned above) is most promising for long purly locks. I would sell him as a breeding ram only.  I will keep him for myself if he's wethered.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Classes in 2018, washing locks, and lambs on the way!

I had a great time teaching the Ecoprinted Nunofelt lampshade class at North House Folk School in February. It was my first time attending the Northern Fibers Retreat weekend in Grand Marais and it didn't disappoint.
Saturday was absolutely beautiful and we were treated to a snowstorm on Sunday. Lake Superior is stunning in the wintertime!

I had a wonderful group of students in my class. There was plenty of time and space to complete our lampshades and as well as nunofelt and bundle some scarves on Sunday while the lampshades were simmering and the snow was falling.
They all turned out so beautiful!
This is the sample I made for the class. I love the soft, warm light it gives the room.

I had surgery to remove a hyperactive parathyroid right after we got home from Grand Marais. What a relief it is to have the surgery done! I had a very stiff and sore neck for a week, but now that I'm almost three weeks post-op, the only pain is when I touch the incision area or when I forget I even had surgery and I stretch my neck too far.

Hopefully I will continue to feel better and regain my energy and focus as the weeks go by. My blood tests still show a high level of parathyroid hormone, but my calcium is normal (yes!). I haven't talked to the surgeon yet, but I think they will continue to monitor my blood calcium level and if it goes up again, there is a possibility that I could have another overactive gland or two. I hope not. I want to get back to my old self right away!

Anyway, I am keeping my schedule light for this year. I didn't sign up to teach at Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival or the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival for 2018. I am teaching a special Cobweb Felt lampshade class for members of the Minnesota Feltmaker's Guild at the Textile Center in Minneapolis on June 10th and two classes (Raw Felted Fleeces and Sheep Locks Hoodie) at the Midwest Felting Symposium June 21-24th.  I will also teach another felted fleece class at North House Folk School July 21-22.

I am still available to teach classes in my studio here in Ogilvie also. If you are interested, just shoot me an email and we can figure out a date. Sid and I really enjoy having visitors here to felt and entertain. I am thinking Sid should teach some cooking classes this summer. All the students seem to love his cooking!
I am expecting lots of Gotland-sired lambs to arrive starting in mid-May and ending June 10th. It will be fun to have lambs again and see some of my maiden ewes take on maternal roles. The last ram I used only sired white lambs, so I am excited to see some color and possibly some gulmoget patterns in the lambs this year.

We will be shearing in April, in the meantime I am washing fleeces by rinsing the locks. I found out  that my long-stapled Teeswater cross fleeces are best cleaned by rinsing well under running water and then just a quick 10 minute dip in hot soapy water before being rinsed again. Actually, it was a FaceBook post that showed how this woman simply rinsed a small group of locks clean under running water. I had always heard that you never run water over your fleece or it will felt. But I royally felted my Teeswater/BFL/Finn fleeces the first time around when I tried to wash them in the usual manner of letting them soak in hot soapy water for an hour then rinse repeatedly until the rinse water is clear. That was a disaster! Those 1/4 Finn fleeces are so beautiful and lustrous, what a waste it was. Anyway, I can wash/rinse a whole fleece in less than one hour doing it my new way. So the fleeces I have saved for washed locks are finally getting done. I still have plenty to make into felted fleeces when the weather warms up.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Promise of Things to Come...

Love is in the air! 
Gunnar, the Gotland ram from Heidi Quist's flock, arrived for duty on Saturday, December 23rd.
If all goes well, I will be inundated with lambs around May17th, right after Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival. Gunnar's getting 15 ewes in his breeding pen, so I should have lots of Gotland cross lambs in 2018.  Included in his breeding group are nine Teeswater cross ewes, two Shetland ewes (River Oaks Camille and her daughter Mystery), two Shetland/BFL ewes, Roxie, my Finn/BFL ewe, and Wanda, my Wensleydale/BFL ewe. In the photo above, Gunnar is getting to know Wanda's 2015 daughter, #123. Look as those fleeces!

Sid and I bottled up another batch of Limoncello. We gave a few bottles as Christmas gifts and have a lot left to enjoy ourselves. I hadn't ever had it before I met Sid. He had a gallon jar of lemon peelings in alcohol for months when we first started going out. I didn't exactly know what it was for, but when he removed the peelings and mixed up lemony alcohol with simple syrup I was hooked. It's great for an after or before dinner drink. Aids digestion. :-)
I always like to start a batch about 3 months before I run out. I usually make a batch using two 750ml bottles of neutral spirits such as Everclear or Vodka. I peel about a dozen lemons, being careful to just get the yellow part of skin, not the white part.
After I put the peelings in a gallon jar, I just pour the spirits on top, cover and let sit until the color is gone from the peelings. I usually let it sit a few months, but I think a few weeks would work too.
On a side note, I usually squeeze the lemons and freeze the juice in an ice cube tray for easy homemade lemonade later.
When you're ready to make your limoncello, mix up batch of simple syrup. The simple syrup should be 50/50 water and sugar in an amount equal to the lemon liquor (minus the peelings). Bring the simple syrup to a boil and simmer until it looks clear. Then let it cool. When it's room temperature, just blend it with the lemon liquor, stir and bottle.
Serve over ice. You may want to dilute it with more water for a very light, refreshing drink that still packs a bit of a punch.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas, Skinfell, and Stones

It's almost Christmas and life has been busy for Sid and I. This is our third Christmas together in our house in Ogilvie. He called the place Terrapin Ridge (for all the turtles that come up from the backwaters of Ann Lake to lay their eggs every spring) and I call it River Oaks West, since I moved my entire flock and my studio here in June of 2015.
My first Christmas here, Sid informed me that his tradition is to have a living Christmas tree. I was fine with that because I hate the thought of killing a tree for a few weeks of decoration. For several years, I used my beautiful Norfolk Island Pine houseplant as a Christmas tree. Finally it got too big for our little house and I had to rehome it. Anyway, Sid and I decided to get a Norfolk Island Pine, but when we went looking for one at the usual spots, there were none to be found except for a very expensive one at the local florist. So Sid ordered one from Amazon, it was so little and cute! This year it's at least three times the size and it holds lots of decorations. The only trouble is, it leans toward the light so I have to keep turning it.

I entered my piece, "A Wee Bit Sheepish" in the Textile Center's Common Thread member's show. Just adding my signature and care tag today and it will be delivered tomorrow.  The show runs from January 8 to March 10, 2018 at the Textile Center in Minneapolis. Be sure to stop in if you get a chance, there are well over 100 fiber artists exhibiting a wide array of fiber art.

I also had three pieces in the "Begin/Continue Exhibit" of instructor's work at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. The pieces included this eco-printed nunofelt wall piece (only in a flat presentation), a black gulmoget Shetland felted fleece and a white raw locks collar with a wax-resist eggshell brooch.

In mid-November I wound up in the ER of our local hospital with kidney stones. I wasn't sure what it was the first time it happened. That only lasted about 30 minutes and I guessed maybe I had a kidney stone because they run in my family. But the second time it happened, the pain wouldn't stop. There was no position I could be comfortable in and I was vomiting. It was horrible, like labor pains that don't stop. We finally decided a trip to the ER was in order around 10:30 p.m. The hospital staff was very nice. They confirmed my suspicions of a kidney stone. They gave me IV painkillers and did x-rays, blood tests and urine tests then sent me home with painkillers and a basket to collect the stone if it passed before I had surgery in two days.  So two days later the urologist removed multiple stones and inserted a stent between my kidney and bladder that stayed in for  2.5 weeks (very uncomfortable, more painkillers!).  Then I had another surgery to remove the stent and break up the remaining stones with shock waves. I felt much better after that, no more painkillers.

The cause of my stones turned out to be primary hyperparathyroidism. Parathyroid hormone controls the level of calcium circulating in the blood. For some reason, usually a non-cancerous tumor, one or more of the glands doesn't shut down producing the hormone when the proper calcium level is reached. The result is that calcium is then taken from the bones and the excess calcium in the blood eventually detrimentally affects organs like the kidneys, heart, brain, and of course the bones. 
It's most commonly diagnosed in women between 50 and 60. My blood levels of calcium were higher than they should be. The ER doctor told me to follow up with my regular doctor who did more blood testing and found that my blood level of parathyroid hormone was way too high. So he referred me to a surgeon who ordered more tests and told me I would need surgery to remove the overactive parathyroid gland(s). The test results were consistent with hyperparathyroidism diagnosis, but the ultrasound and nuclear medicine scan failed to show which of the four parathyroid glands was the culprit. So the surgeon referred me to an ENT in the Twin Cities who does a lot of hyperparathyroid cases. I see him tomorrow. I am so anxious to get this taken care of! Apparently I have had this condition for a few years already. My bones are losing density as I type this. Hyperparathyroidism if left unchecked can lead to kidney stones (and kidney failure), heart attack and stroke, osteoporosis, cancer, depression, inability to concentrate, and psychosis. Yikes! Apparently it also causes weight gain, no wonder I have been steadily adding pounds the past couple years. I thought it was all Sid's fault for being such a good cook. Once the offending parathyroid gland(s) is/are removed, the condition is cured. Yay! And then calcium and vitamin D supplements are given to help restore bone loss.

On a more cheerful note, Sid has given me my Christmas present already, it's a class have been dying to take -- Skinfelling with Karen Aakre at the Milan Village Arts School next April.  You can check it out with this link.

I first heard of Skinfell from a Swedish lady who took my felted fleece class in 2016. They sounded wonderful and I have been thinking of ways to incorporate the look of skinfell in my felted pelts.  But now Sid and I are learning how to tan our own sheepskins and skinfell would be a great way to add value and make them even more beautiful. 

If all goes well with the ENT tomorrow, I am planning to put Gunnar, a Gotland ram from Heidi Quist's flock, in with my 16 ewes this weekend for late May lambs in 2018. Gotland hides are the best for skinfell and the Gotland fleeces are wonderful for felt pelts! It all seems to come together...

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Winter Solstice, Felice Navidad, Happy Hannukah, etc. to all!

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...