Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home Sweet Home?

My apologies for the length and number of photos in this post, with so much to say, I didn't know where to begin...
I meant to post sooner about the wonderful time I had at the Midwest Felting Symposium, but things have been very hectic since I got home -- not in a good way at all. The Symposium was an absolute blast. The classes were excellent, quite challenging, but lots of fun. I learned so much in each of them. Getting acquainted with fellow felters was the best part of the weekend though. The shot above is from the "Hats Inspired By Nature" class taught by Ewa Kuniczak of Scotland. It's missing two students whose hats weren't done the first day. Below is a shot of Ewa performing her magic on my goose hat. I learned some very useful felting techniques from Ewa - what a dynamo she is!
I don't know what possessed me to make a goose hat (with wing flaps on each side!). It doesn't look so good as a hat and I never wear hats anyway, but it makes a wonderful tea cozy. ;-)
The food was very good (the lasagna dinner was my favorite) and the free happy hour at the hotel was really fun. After an intense day of class, we could get together over snacks and wine to share information before dinner was served at 7. The after dinner presentations were very interesting and informative. We'd finally get back to our rooms about 9 p.m. and have to get to bed so we'd be ready to go to breakfast before classes started again at 8:30 a.m. I'm definitely saving up my pennies so I can go again next year!

My travel partner, Nancy Hoerner, was so much fun to be with. We talked and talked and talked. I learned so much from her. I finally got to buy her new book, "Felt Inlays", it's filled with great little felting projects. I can't wait to try some of them. Below is a photo of Nancy's book and the other things I bought at the Symposium: a blue Gertie Ball (to make felted vessels), a 10 needle punch tool, an ounce of dyed mohair locks, a wooden fulling tool, and some cute cookie cutters for needle felted ornaments and embellishments. You can see I really restrained myself while shopping.
On the right you see the projects I made in class, the infamous Goose Hat, a tulip and a morning glory. The flowers were more work than I imagined they would be. But the morning glory went pretty fast.

Nancy's friend, Kay Kaduce, is going to Turkmenistan to work with women in establishing a wool business. She was hoping to find someone who could shear sheep, scour wool, dye and blend, card and spin to accompany her in September. When Nancy told her I could do all those things and that I am currently unemployed, I was on the hot seat. It did sound very tempting, going to Russia with all travel and per diem expenses paid, to do volunteer work with a small group of shepherdesses. I was really excited about the possibility. But after coming home to one disaster after another, I've decided not to pursue this assignment. If anyone reading this is interested in volunteering, go to www.winrock.org to read up on how to apply. It's the John Ogonowski Central Asia Farmer to Farmer Program. What a great service they do!

Below is a photo of the things I bought on Monday after discovering my poor Cora had come down with a nasty case of mastitis while I was gone: Banamine, Fortified Vitamin B Complex, Combi-Pen-48, and a teat infusion.
She's doing okay today (Wednesday), but she's still not out of the woods. You can see her ears are half way up again. She's nibbling on grass and drinking water, both are good signs. The Udderly EZ Milker wouldn't work on her. Things were just too lumpy and hard to get out, so I resorted to the teat infusions and we're weaning her 8 week old ram lamb. The infusions are really very easy and I think they are not painful after milking out whatever you can. I'm just hoping this doesn't turn into blue bag. I got my micron test results back from Texas A & M and Cora's results were pretty good. Below is a photo of what I bought on Tuesday - a trip to the ER and x-rays of my son's right hand. It's a long story involving our neurotic, panting, drooling Australian Shepherd on a hot summer night in a thunderstorm. Son hit the floor and broke his hand! I woke up when he almost passed out from shock afterward. We went to the ER in the dark and when we got home it was light out. That's when I saw that the electronet fence had blown down in the storm. Thankfully my ewes and lambs hadn't become aware of the situation and they were still in the back paddock.So I've been busy driving him to his appointments and making sure he takes his meds and ices the hand. The pain is worse today. No work until he sees the doctor again next week.

Which brings us to this morning - I'm sparing you photos of this one. As Stan was leaving for work he noticed the lean-to door hanging wide open and headless carcasses of meatbirds strewn about the yard. Dang! We were doing so good having only lost the one chick on the first day. These birds are heading to Brainerd on Sunday evening for processing. And some darn raccoon thinks it can come in there and pry open the little chicken door (which was split in two by Shetland ram horns last year) and help himself to chicken dinner! He got four meatbirds and one little California White replacement layer. The war is on! I'm using a body as bait tonight - I know he (or she?) will be back for more. And yes, we're nailing that little door shut too.

On a brighter chicken note, this is the rooster I got about a week ago. Isn't he lovely? He's just a baby really, and only recently learned to crow. I don't think the hens are as thrilled with him as I am. He's very friendly, raised by a little girl who carried him around like a baby. I hope he doesn't turn into a nasty adult rooster. We won't keep a mean ram or a mean rooster around here. So far, so good.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On the Road Again!

Well, I'm off to the Midwest Felting Symposium in Madison, WI tomorrow! It's going to be so much fun, immersing myself in felting for four whole days! I'm sure I will learn a lot.
Today I'm busy packing, cleaning, and washing clothes, watering plants, etc. so everything will still be alive when I get home again.
The garden has grown tremendously in the past two weeks. It's shown above on July 7th, and below on July 22nd. The tomatoes are as tall as the corn! I'm sure they will be blown over soon and then my rows will totally disappear...it seemed like I left lots of space between the rows, but it's sure crowded now. I had to re-seed the lettuce and the spinach, so that's why you see an empty section on the right.

Here's a shot of little Bo, his horns are starting to come in now at 7 weeks old. He's really got a soft fluffy fleece. I can't wait to see how it turns out. When he was born, it was like hair and I was a little disappointed, but it's really nice now. Sorry all these photos are so dark, it was a hot day and they all were hanging out in the shade.
Leora is getting so big too. Here she is with her mother, Lanora yesterday.
Here's Rhyn and Rhaya (the Natural colored BFLs) in the back with Lucy (the katmoget in front) and Lana (gulmoget) lounging nearby...FYI, Rhyn can get in with the others, she just happened to be on the other side of the panel. I haven't taken any ewe lambs away for weaning, just the older boys.Speaking of which, here's Rueben again...I think Bo's fleece will be much like Rueben's; intermediate to single coated.
And remember those cute little yellow chicks we got in June?
Well, they're getting to be big fat stinky broiler chickens now. They sure have surpassed the 5 replacement layers in growth!
I put them in the lean-to where Dougal and Granite were housed until recently. Surprisingly they loved sheep mineral. I had to cover it up because I'm not sure if that would be good for them. I was planning to sell 15 of them after they are vacuum packed in August, but we'll probably just keep all 30 for ourselves.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rain in July

We've been having plenty of rain lately. It's so nice to be able to use my electronet fencing again. For a while there the ground was too hard to insert the posts. In some ways the rain is most welcome and in other ways, it's not.

Yesterday afternoon rain hit fairly hard while I was doing the Pine City Arts Festival. It was then that I discovered my tent needs waterproofing. It handled the drizzly-misty stuff, but when the rain became steady, the drips started in on my inventory. Of course, wool can get wet, no problem, my sheepskins, felted and knitted things are washable, so no problem there either. But sure enough it came in right on the blank note cards and the goat milk soap! After the customers cleared out of my drippy booth, I managed to pack everything up in plastic bags as quickly as possible. I was doing the booth all by myself. I tucked the plastic bags and containers under the tables and ran for my van -- vendors have to park over a block away. Why do I never think to pack an umbrella or even a raincoat?

Well, other vendors had already gotten the parking spot near my tent, so I parked across the street. The water in the gutters was pretty deep and my little Minnetonka moccasins were no match for it. Back and forth across the street with bags of wool and big Rubbermaid containers, I was totally drenched.

The worst part was that I really needed to use the rest room! I simply had to take time out to walk across the park to the porta-potty, looking like a drown rat, past the other dry vendors in raincoats standing their non-leaking tents. But oh, what a relief it was! ;-)

Fortunately the parking space opened up by then and I got my tables put away and decided to tackle the tent. Lesson learned: when your tent has big pools of water in the corners of the roof, use something besides your arm to push up the roof and displace the water. It was like pouring a bucket of water down my arm!

I pulled the pins and lowered the sides, pulled up the stakes and squeezed the EZ Up into a manageable bundle. Slid it in the van on top of the other inventory. Said good bye to the ladies with the woven rug booth across from me - they were so nice! And headed for home.

It wasn't until I called Stan to tell him not to bother coming to help me when he got off work, that I remembered all the money and checks were in my jeans pockets. Yes, all totally soaked. Thankfully the checks dried out with the ink still legible. ;-)

Anyway, I still had a great time! It's always fun to talk about sheep, wool, spinning, felting, knitting and soapmaking with the public. I'll use something to waterproof my tent seams before the next booth comes up in September. I hope that does the trick...

In August, I'll have some of my sheep on display in the Baa Booth at the Minnesota State Fair (the Baa Booth is an educational service of the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers). At least that is under cover. And hopefully, we won't let any sheep get away from us this year when we load them up! I still shudder to think what could have happened to Brita when she escaped last year.

On another note, I helped fellow shepherd, Kim Nickolai, shear four sheep a few days ago. That was a very fun and rewarding experience. I came home with some beautiful Shetland fleece to work on! Makes me want to invest in a stand and electric clippers. I took the sunset photo above on the way home that evening.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hay!


Well, our 2008 hay crop is in the barn and not a moment too soon. The rain started about an hour ago. I hope our hay guy got the rest of his bales put away. Our portion of the crop is 21 big squares, plus a broken one which I picked up this morning before the rain hit.

If we keep getting rain this summer, we might even get a second crop this fall. Wouldn't that be great!

Being over on the land watching them baling up the hay last evening reawakened my desire to sell our house and build on that parcel. The amount of forage over there for the sheep is mind boggling. The sheep would be in heaven! And so would I. I love the open space and big sky. Here we are so cramped for pasture and with all the trees, we never get to enjoy the sunsets or sunrises. I know we're no spring chickens, but maybe we could do it...


Here is River Oaks Rueben. He's out of River Oaks Eliza and Windswept Boggart. He's got a great little tail and his horns are looking good so far. I think he's Fawn, see his fleece below.


I've been studying up on the modified colors lately and have decided that River Oaks McIntire (below) is shaela. I'll try to get a good photo of his fleece when parted.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

More Flowers and growing lambs


Another Wednesday auction means more flowers to plant!


This is a hanging basket of some type of moon flower. I also got a bunch of begonias. I really like the Ornamental Millet, it looks likes a stalk of corn in the planters.


River Oaks Lana is getting bigger all the time. So pretty too. She got her first CDT vaccination yesterday.

And here's River Oaks Leonie, her fleece is so soft.

Lanora and her ewe lamb, Leora.

And little Bo Diddly, Cora's ram lamb. I'm hoping his horns stay small. He's got excellent conformation.