Friday, March 28, 2008

Lambing getting closer /Barn Cam

Lambing is getting closer all the time. The girls are getting bigger every day and I'm so anxious for the first lambs to arrive.
I've started getting very nervous about my feeding program. Did I feed too much, too little? Hopefully the lambs won't be too large for the ewes to deliver. I'm putting in an order to Premier today for lambing supplements and a lamb puller just in case we need them this year.

In the photo below you can see old Cocoa is filling out and I believe the big belly next to her is Delia, a Shetland Mule born in 2007.


After finding Hannah cast a couple weeks ago, I've been nervous every morning when I go out to the barn. To solve that problem I invested in a wireless closed circuit TV system for the barn. It arrived yesterday and it's really great! I'm watching the barn channel right now. We need to figure out where to put the camera to get the best view of the whole barn, but already I can hear what's going on out there as well as see 3/4 of the pen inside the barn. Yes, if anyone lambs outside I won't know about it, but in this weather, the girls stay inside most of the time.

I can watch the barn channel all day and all night long if I want. The biggest surprise to me yesterday was that I am the highlight of their day. They laid around all afternoon like beached whales, chewing their cud and waiting for the shepherdess to bring more hay.

I couldn't wait for darkness to come yesterday so I could see how the infa-red night vision worked. It's fabulous. With a range of 45 feet, I can see what's happening in the dark in my 30 x 40 pole building. They seemed to be up and nibbling all night. However at 5 a.m. they were all pretty sacked out.

If you're wondering how much a system like this costs, it was only $120. I searched all over and wound up getting it from WalMart.com of all places. The price is not bad for peace of mind and saving myself many midnight trips to the barn. If I put the camera in the right spot, the reception is way better than the baby monitor I used last year.

Okay, now for some pregnant ewe photos! Below is Jemma, she may be carrying only one in there. Bred to Sheltering Pines Bombarde, I'm hoping for a polled grey katmoget ram lamb from her.


I'm thinking this is little Dot, our June Shetland Mule lamb. The mule lambs are like peas in a pod and I have to see them together or check their tags to know who is who. I really didn't want to expose her to a ram, but we had no extra pens, so she was exposed to the gulmoget Shetland ram lamb. Should be interesting to see what she produces.


And this is our beautiful Rhyn, she's a coming yearling and definitely pregnant. The BFLs have such long bodies, perfect for carrying multiple lambs. She was exposed briefly to Dougal a white BFL ram, but she would have delivered by now if he bred her. So I'm very sure Granite, a natural colored BFL ram lamb is the sire of her lamb(s). And in the that case, her lamb(s) will be natural colored. :-)

This is Lanora and one of the Shetland Mules. Not the most flattering photo, but you can see the size difference in the two year old purebred versus the coming yearling Shetland/BFL cross.

By far the biggest ewes in our flock are Mabeline (above) and Hattie (not pictured here, but she is in the first photo in this post, the black ewe in front). They are wide and low. I'm anxious (and nervous!) to see if we'll get our first set of triplets this year. Mabeline is bred to Granite, so she should have some nice crosses for us. Hattie is bred to Windswept Boggart and is my hope for some of the elusive dark brown lambs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Skirting and washing fleeces

Now that I've finally finished the Shepherd's Harvest booklet, I can get back to my fleeces! The sheep were shorn on Feb. 29th and I'm just getting to them now. I've skirted three BFL fleeces and three Babydoll fleeces. I washed Rhyn's 5 pound natural colored fleece (locks shown above) and the three Babydoll fleeces (8.5 pounds) already.

Below is a photo of the little BD wether's fleece, I'm not sure where on his body it's from, but it's the longest and the nicest of all the BD fleece.



I'm not sure when my three Babydolls were last shorn, their fleeces were pretty short. Below is Albert, our BD ram's fleece from his mid side. It's pretty short. Spinning the shorter fiber reminds me of spinning angora rabbit. But this stuff is so crimpy, it really stretches out.


I didn't realize that the typical micron count for Babydoll fleece is 18 microns! Garrett, did you hear that? I plan on sending in samples from my boys for testing. I combed and spun a little of that FINE crimpy white fleece this afternoon. It spins into a a fine springy yarn as you can see in the photo below. It's soft enough for next-to-the-skin clothing. I think it will make some great stretchy socks.
And this is Dougal's fleece, I LOVE Dougal's fleece, it's so softy and silky. Rhyn's fleece is silky too, but Dougal has these beautiful purly locks that give spring to his yarn. And super soft.


Okay off to skirt Lanora's fleece. Then there are only 12 more Shetland fleeces left to do before I start cleaning for the Utecht family Easter dinner on Sunday. I thought since I was unemployed I would have time to host it, man times flies!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cast Ewe

Each morning when I go to feed the girls I scan the paddock for aborted fetuses, check their poops, etc. watching for any signs of trouble in the flock. Well this morning my eyes fixed on the sight of poor very pregnant Hannah laying on her back with wild eyes and a slightly foaming mouth. I saw she was alive and struggling to move. Right away I looked to see if she was prolapsing, thankfully not. I jumped right in and figured out the problem immediately when I got to her. She was stuck in a depression and just couldn't get back up. I moved a round feeder out of that spot two days ago. It left a round depression in the bedding. I didn't think twice about it--until this morning.
Anyway, poor Hannah got back to her feet with my help and stood around in a daze for about 5 minutes. She looked bloated and very dirty, but once she regained her equillibrium, she decided that eating with the rest of the girls was the thing to do. She looks fine this afternoon. I shudder to think what might have been if I hadn't gotten there in time. I put the round feeder back into the depression so nobody else rolls into it. Our lambing starts in a couple weeks now.


I took photos yesterday afternoon. Hannah is pictured above. She retains a nice dark moorit color, but she was in the rise at shearing.


Cocoa looks like she's Brandet, don't you think? The Brandet marking in Shetlands is described as "having stripes of another color across the body". She's not brandet of course, I know why the darker color is coming in like that, but it's still a cool visual. Her other side is shown below, they match!


And Hannah's twin sister Hattie, below, is as big as her sister. They both take after their mother, Bramble Hetty, who seemed huge throughout her pregnancy. Hattie's standing next to her daughter Lucy and a Shetland Mule who were both in the rise at shearing too. Both are definitely pregnant. I'm hoping for a gulmoget out of Lucy. And I can't wait to see the 3/4 BFLs out of the Mules.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Will spring ever come?

I am getting so tired of this cold weather! We're at -13F this morning with a wind chill temp of -31F. The girls are starting to get used to being wool-less and finally went outside again yesterday afternoon. At first I wondered if something had chased them out of the barn! But they were soaking up the sun at 16F. I snapped this photo from the kitchen patio door.

The photo below is of the Babydoll wethers and Granite lounging in their cattle panel shelter. Too bad that darn T-post got in the way!




I did put coats on a few of them. Little Lucy kept putting her front leg through the neck opening for a sarong look, so hers is off now. Ten-year-old Cordelia (above) and little Abby are wearing their Rocky Mountain Sheep coats with no problems. (Lucy wore a different brand.)

Below is Rhyn, she gave us a gorgeous 5 pound natural colored BFL fleece this year. Her fleece color is still very dark - yay! That's Cora next to her. Cora doesn't look pregnant at all. Last year she cycled late and was bred to the BFL ram giving us a June baby. I hope she didn't do that again this year. I had her in Windswept Boggart's breeding group in hopes of modified purebred Shetland lambs.


I'm going to wait until things warm up a little before feeding them this morning -- for their sake as much as mine. I'm sure they are all nestled deep into their bedding, trying to keep warm. I do love watching my little round ewes eating their hay these days. They easily fit around the feeders now and they look more like lambs themselves. I'm feeding dairy quality alfalfa hay along with free choice sheep mineral. I gave them a little corn on the colder days and right after shearing, but this alfalfa is pretty rich, so I don't want to overdo it.

I'm dying to skirt the fleeces, but have been busy with the Shepherd's Harvest booklet lately. It's supposed to be ready for download from the web site (www.shepherdsharvestfestival.org -- you'll have to copy this URL, I can't get it to link properly here - sorry!) around March 15th.
That and switching everything over to my new ISP. I transferred my web site two days ago and it's still not up and running. I didn't realize that would cut off that email account as well. Hopefully they will both be back up and running today with everything going to the riveroakssheep.com address.

We had only a few sheep in the rise at shearing. Hannah and her sister Hattie, both Holly F2's, and very surprisingly, one of our Shetland Mules.

Okay, it's time to put on the long johns and get out to feed the sheep...