Friday, June 27, 2008

Summertime!

Oh, I love the lazy days of summer. Okay, so they're not so lazy, but I have been having a great summer so far. I can't believe that the 4th of July is almost here!

I never got a chance to buy flowers this spring, so I was excited to see that an area greenhouse brought plant to the Wednesday morning auction this week. I bought geraniums, vinca vines, a new guinea impatiens, a tuberous begonia, and some lavatara (sp?) plants (they're like small hollyhocks). It's nice to get some flowering annuals planted.

The trees, perennials and shrubs have kept us fascinated so far. The Black Locust trees were in full bloom when I got back from out west. They smelled so sweet for about 10 days, and the bees were humming in the branches. They've finished blooming now and the peonies have picked up where they left off. When the peonies peter out, the lilies are next on the docket.

The sheep are not crazy about our 80 degree days, but they are doing fine. I decided to offer more mature ewes for sale since I'd like to get my flock down to 15-20 sheep for next winter. It's so hard to make these choices!

We dropped Cocoa, Jasmine and Elsa off at their new home and they all disappeared into the tall grasses without even looking back. I've heard they are doing very well. Cocoa and Jasmine had their lambs with them, but Elsa's twins are still here. Boy, they were so sad that mom was gone!

The chicks are in the barn now, they have a 6 x 8' area which gives them plenty of room to roam. I have a light on them all the time, but with the warm days, I think I can cut back on that in a week or so. They are growing so fast! We lost one chick the first day when he got stuck by the waterer. But the hatchery gave us an extra chick, so we're still at 35 total.

The good news here is that hay prices have come down again! After buying those flowers on Wednesday, and bidding on turkeys and geese too --thankfully I didn't go high enough to bring any more birds home. ;-) -- I stuck around for the hay auction too. Prices were averaging $2-$2.50/bale this week. I got a stack of 52 bales of first crop alfalfa grass hay. I would have liked the other stack of 50, but someone else got first dibs. It was hot that day and I was glad to have our youngest son, Matt, home to help me get those bales loaded up and stacked in the barn.

Our own hay crop is ready to be cut. It will probably get done next week because the next few days are supposed to be rainy here. We have a grass, clover, and Timothy mixture in our fields. This spring we spread orchard grass seeds, so there may be a little orchard grass in the bales too. Looks like we'll be back to small squares again too. They are much easier to feed than the big squares, but such a pain to stack when the weather is so hot and humid. Oh well, I'll just be happy to get lots of hay put away for next winter!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chicks are here!

Our 35 chicks are here. I ordered 30 Jumbo Cornish Crosses and two California Whites (for white eggs), two Gold Sex-links (for brown eggs) and one Ameraucana (for green eggs).

I started them off in the basement in a wading pool for a few days. I had them out in the sunshine this afternoon until it started to sprinkle. And now they are out in the barn in a dog crate. Not coming back in the house, it's amazing how fast those little buggers can stink up the place!

The three adult hens we already had are keeping us nicely stocked with fresh eggs. That makes me very happy. But I think they need a rooster. One of the ladies has started to crow in the morning. ;-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Home Again!

It's so good to be home again! We lost a tree in the backyard and the BFL rams managed to outwit Stan and munch on all my raspberries while I was gone, but other than that, everything is fine.

I started out by attending Chad Alice Hagen's seminar on dyeing felt scarves with dyes painted on paper. What a fun teacher she is! Immediately afterward, Kim and I got on the road out west.

Kim's friend Susan was such a gracious hostess even though she was grieving over the loss of her beloved dog, Bennie. Here is a photo of Kim on the phone with Susan a few hours before we arrived at her place. We were in Wyoming at that point, it seemed like the middle of nowhere. But the sign at the rest stop said we were on the Oregon Trail and just past the Continental divide. Just imagine people in covered wagons making that trip to settle out west!

Susan's partner, David, came home from Alaska in time to give us a back-roads tour of the Grand Tetons National Forest on a beautiful sunny day.
Views of the Grand Tetons from Jenny Lake...

Kim, David, and 100% Border Collie, Sky...reminds of the movie "Heidi".

We saw a bear cub, two moose with their calves, lots of buffalo, antelope, and deer. Mama bear was nowhere in sight so the photo above was taken from INSIDE the vehicle.

Below is a photo of an osprey nest which is located across the river from another house of David's which is located within the National Forest (and is for sale) -- note the little heads sticking up.



Kim's dog, Rabb, was so well behaved. He had a great time mingling with Susan's dogs for four whole days and riding in the truck with us the rest of the time. In the photo above, Rab is on the right and his brother, River, is on the left. It was quite cold and rainy/snowy in Wyoming, so Kim and I had to buy warm clothes -- which we lived in the whole time.

I did manage to sketch the mountainside at Susan's one sunny afternoon, and I got lots of photos to work from.
Susan's pasture at sunset...

The Estes Park, Colorado Wool Market was great! Kim and I got there in time for the BFL breeder's banquet. It was wonderful to meet the BFL breeders from out west and see their sheep. Jared Lloyd did an excellent job of organizing things and cooking up lamb for the banquet. It was absolutely delicious! I was especially thrilled to meet some of the other BFL Breeders Association Board members in person. After all those long e-meetings, it's great to finally put faces with the names. We did a little shopping on Sunday morning and checked out the sheep one last time then headed for home.

Yes, we saw some amazing scenery, but we both agreed there's nothing like getting back to good old Minnesota. Complete with mosquitoes!

I spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with the sheep and seeing how much the lambs have grown. Cocoa and Jasmine will be leaving for their new home next week, so I have a few more days to spend with my favorite ewe - sniff, sniff. (She's going to a good home with greener pastures, and that's all I can ask for with my sheep.) All the girls were happy to see me again and the lambs were too.

Elsa will be going with Cocoa and Jasmine rather than Cora since Cora has a new baby to care for. Her moorit smirslet ram lamb is still pretty little and he was trying to instigate lamb races last night, but couldn't get any takers. They were all too busy munching on hay.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Eight Days on the Road!

I'm so excited - tomorrow morning I am attending the Shibori Symposium at the Textile Center of Minnesota. I signed up for a seminar by Chad Alice Hagen. I love her felt work! Her latest book, "Fabulous Felted Scarves" is full of innovative felting techniques. The seminar will be on transferring dyes on paper to felt. Should be interesting!

Immediately afterward, Kim Nikolai and I are leaving for an 8-day road trip to Wilson, WY (near Jackson). We will be staying with her friend Susan for four days. We're hauling out five Scottish Blackface ewes for Susan from Littledale farm in WI. Kim and Susan want to work with their Border Collies and the sheep. I plan to take photos, sketch, paint the mountain scenery.

We'll be heading down to Estes Park, CO for the Wool Market and BFL Revolution over Father's Day weekend.

I am really looking forward to meeting some of the BFL and Shetland breeders from out west! I can't wait to see all the sheep in the competitions too. The BFL breeders are hosting a banquet on Saturday evening and I hope we get there in time to attend. Sounds like Jared has a great menu of lamb planned that night.

I'm not sure I will have access to my email account out there. So if anyone needs to get a hold of me via email, you can use riveroaksshetlands@yahoogroups.com if I don't respond to the regular address.

I've been busy getting ready to leave my home and flock for a whole week. I got the older lambs started on their CDT shots and filled all the mineral buckets. Put out two water buckets just in case someone forgets to refill them. I got the garden planted yesterday and put hog panels around it to keep the cats and dog out. By the time I get back I should see corn, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and watermelon sprouted. The forecast looks warm and rainy for the coming week, so my onions, peppers, and brandywine tomatoes should do fine.

Check out how hefty River Oaks Lana is getting! The lambs are all growing so fast! Well, except for Jemma's little black Shetland Mule ram lamb. Gosh, he's so cute and little! Cora's little ram lamb is super friendly and has the quietest voice. I think he'll have a long and wavy fleece and a great little tail.

Here's a shot of River Oaks McIntire evading the wrath of Derra the other day. He was hoping to get a drink and she let him know it wasn't gonna happen. I'm still hoping he may turn out to be dark brown. He's out of River Oaks Hattie, a black F2 Holly (BB/Bb) and Windswept Boggart, a mioget. Sabrina has a black she's hoping is modified and I think they both look brown in the face already.

One last shot of my azalea blooms and bleeding hearts. They'll be history when I get back. I love the azalea blossoms. I wish they would last longer. The bleeding heart has been in bloom for a couple weeks and it's getting bigger every year.

Okay, back to packing and cleaning. We have a party to attend this afternoon at Mark's place. Here is a shot of his figure after I added the glasses and before I added wisps of BFL locks for hair in back. It stands about 7.5" tall. Yes he did like it but would have liked to have seen some abs on the tummy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Needle Felting Project

First, Socks says "Hi". It's always so hard to get a photo of him, because he's so friendly. He's Mabeline's Shetland Mule lamb that has been wethered.

I've been working on this needle felted bust of my friend Mark for his 60th birthday, which was yesterday. I thought I was done, but since his wife didn't pick it up, I'm re-doing the left hand (it was too big and the arm too long) and I'm making some glasses for him. I might even throw together a shirt for him to wear. I stuffed the belly with rocks to add stability and weight. I sewed the head onto the body too. But I left the hat removable so we could enjoy the bald head. Lots of fun to do, but very time consuming!

This is a shot of Jemma's Shetland Mule ram lamb. He's not growing very fast. He's just as cute as a bug's ear and so friendly. I haven't wethered him yet because he's so small, but I think he would make a nice fiber pet.


And here's a shot of Matt and Rhyn's BFL ewe lamb, Onyx. She's really friendly too. Just like her mom who loves attention. The both of them are shown below. Me and Mini-Me. ;-)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Finally Finished Lambing!




I am happy to say we have finally finished the 2008 lambing season as of this morning. Cora gave birth to a moorit smirslet ram lamb during the night. He's such a cutie! I was hoping for twins from her -- maybe a ewe lamb or two-- but I'm very happy with a healthy single. Now I can relax and put the barn cam away. Yes!

I knew Cora was getting close to lambing because she was definitely dropped yesterday and her bag was full. I did a barn check about 10:30 p.m. No sign of labor, but I was suspicious anyway. So I watched on the barn cam around 11:oo p.m. and noticed a couple ram lambs were bugging her. That was enough to get me back out there to put her in a jug. I awoke to the sound of a strange howling dog around 4:30 a.m. and checked the barn cam. Cora was still walking around, back and forth in the jug. I thought I had jumped the gun and shouldn't have jugged her overnight. Then I saw her stick her head through the panel to a dark lump on the ground outside the jug. I thought, "OMG, what is that?" I ran out and sure enough, it was a cute little ram lamb curled up sleeping! He was all licked off and well fed, but he must have crawled out of the jug and not figured out how to get back in.

Thankfully all is well and we have ram lamb #14 on the ground. So this brings our total lamb count up to 22 born this year, 21 live. Eight are purebred Shetlands, six of which are ram lambs. But very nice looking ram lambs!