Friday, October 24, 2008

Fall colors, Wild Turkeys, and Cattle

The beautiful fall colors are history already. The ewe pasture doesn't look like this anymore...Or this...
Things are starting to look Novembery already. Well, I guess November isn't too far off.

Stan and I went over to the land in Ogilvie the other night to pick up a big bale of hay and check to see if the cattle were grazing our pasture. Yes, they were!
Isn't it amazing that those big beasts can be contained with just a single strand of hot wire? In the photo above you can see some of the 40 head of cattle our hayman runs in our pasture. Stan had to fix the fence and move the east line before the cattle could be put out there. There's lots more pasture over the horizon too. These cattle will hardly make a dent in it. I wish I could have my sheep over there making use of all that forage!

I found some crab apples to pick. The deer must have gotten the rest of them because I couldn't find any on the ground.

We often see turkeys over there and this time I had the camera with me... I hope people are enjoying whatever might be left of their fall colors and fall weather. Sounds like we've got snow in the forecast for this weekend.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lots More Wool! (and a Felt "Painting")

Woo-hoo! I'm so excited. I got THREE boxes of processed wool back from Zeilinger Wool Company in Frankenmuth, Michigan. I got 6 pounds of Musket (almost a Champagne color) combed top, 9.5 pounds of white combed top (Shetland and Shetland/BFL cross fiber - very nice!), 3 pounds of dark moorit Shetland roving, and two queen size comforter batts.

Above you can see how the combed top comes, nicely coiled and stacked. It took me a while to ball it all up last night, below you can see the results.

I shipped the combed top order out on Sept. 18 and the roving/batt order on October 3rd. I'd say they came through in amazing time. And I can't say enough good things about the quality of the work they did. I don't coat my sheep and I do feed hay year round. So my fleeces have VM, that's why I prefer combed top. The combing process removes all the noils, neps, and VM. IMO, it's worth the extra cost to have a product I can be proud to sell.

That said, they did a terrific job on the dark moorit roving and the quilt batts too. I can't believe how clean they came back. Now I just have to figure out my prices and start selling these fabulous fibers. The quilt batts were from the britch wool, so only the softest fibers went into the roving and the top. I haven't spun any of it up yet, but I'm sure they will all be soft enough for scarves and next to the skin wear.

This is a photo of my latest wool painting - it was not quite finished in this photo - I took out some of the water and I attempted to sign it in wool - that was not easy! I'm sorry the wool paintings don't photograph well at all. In real life they look like pastel paintings when matted and framed and the colors aren't as harsh. But I wanted to give you an idea of what I'm doing. This piece is only about 9 x 12" after all the felting and fulling. It was done from my imagination and past experience. I used primarily hand-dyed Shetland wool from Bramble Hetty. It was a combination of needle and wet felting. I feel like I'm ready to tackle a big one now - maybe some birch trees or a sheep portrait! :-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cool Mushroom & Family Photos

Check out this cool mushroom. I took several photos of it the other day.

Two of my cousins came over yesterday. What fun it was to see them again! My dad come over from Danbury Wisconsin too. We had a nice afternoon talking about sheep, the old relatives back in the UP of Michigan, and dogs.

In the photo is me, my cousin Denise who is my age, and her big sister, Stephanie. They sure don't look alike do they? Denise got Grandpa's red hair and Stephanie looks just like her dad. On the right you see my dad, it's hard to believe his 80th birthday is coming up soon!

Stephanie lives out in Washington state. She raises Navajo Churro sheep and Basset hounds. She came to Minnesota to judge a dog tracking show/contest - sorry I don't know much about the details, but I was thrilled that she and Denise stopped in for a nice long visit. That last time they came was in 2006 when I was in the midst Bramble Hetty's serious lambing problems. Needless to say, this visit was much more relaxed.

I am already making plans to attend the 2010 Black Sheep Gathering. That's the year the BFL people will be having an AGM-type event there - don't know all the details on that either. But Stephanie doesn't live too far away from Eugene, OR so we'll have to figure something out.

I put the adult BFL rams in with the polled ram lambs the other day. They seemed to get along okay for about a day and then I noticed Dougal being pretty rough with the ram lambs, especially the little Ile de France, so I separated them again. Dougal is ready for breeding, he's driving poor Granite crazy too these days. I decided to offer him for sale at $250. If anyone wants him, let me know ASAP. Otherwise he's on his way as a rental ram down in Isanti County in a couple weeks. I only have two ewes to breed him to this year, so he needs another outlet.

Everyone says the Ile de France ram lambs looks like a doll sheep. I just hope he grows a pair in time to the job on my Shetland mule ewes. He's not real well endowed, I'm hoping it's just because he's so young.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Photos of the girls

Here are some photos of our ewes and ewe lambs. They were posing for me yesterday morning.

Leora, is our white BFL ewe lamb. born April 18, 2008. I love her blue coloring and fine fleece.
Lanora, below, is Leora's mother. She's a two year old BFL ewe. She's on the small side, her daughter is almost as big as she is.
Rhyn is our yearling Natural Colored BFL ewe. She's a big girl.
Above is Derra, a yearling Shetland Mule, she looked so long in that shot. I got a full body shot, below.And this is Elsie, one of the Shetland Mule ewe lambs we had shorn at the State Fair.

And below is Bramble Jemma, just after feeding time.

And this is Jemma's Shetland Mule daughter, #0071. She takes after mom in getting herself full of hay.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cattle Panel & T-Post Sheep Shelters

There was a discussion on the Shetlands list about how to make an inexpensive shelter for sheep out of cattle panels, T-posts, and a tarp. We redid our T-post shelters this summer so I thought I would post these photos of the ram shelter. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

This shelter is made with two cattle panels, you can use as many as you want. We've used this two panel size to house about 5-6 Shetland rams over the winter...it keeps them out of the wind and rain and snow and keeps their hay dry.

A word of warning, if you have horned rams, be sure to watch for any poor souls who get their horns caught in the panels. They learn after a while to keep their heads clear, but getting stuck can be dangerous for them.

To make this kind of a shelter, we start out by pounding a row of T-posts in, spacing them the height of the cattle panel apart. So for the two cattle panel shelter, we put in three T-posts about 4' apart. Then about 7' to 8' across from that row, we put in another row of three T-posts. (You don't want to go too far apart or the arch won't stand up to a heavy snow load or high winds.)

Then we take a cattle panel and position it inside two T-posts, bow it down to fit inside the corresponding T-posts across from it. The tension holds it in place while we secure it to the T-posts before installing the next panel. We use twine to tie the panels to the T-posts. We tried plastic electrical strips in the past, but they can snap in cold temps.

When all the panels are in place, we tie them together along the arch and then cover the whole thing with a heavy duty tarp.

This year we decided to tie the panels farther up the T-posts for added resistance to sheep who may try to climb up the sides or rams who love the spring of the arches when they bash them.

The first year we used this type of shelter, we were surprised at how the lambs scaled right up the sides playing a game of "king of the hill". Besides being dangerous (they were up pretty high!), they ruined the tarp in no time. We had to keep moving the rows of T-posts closer together to get a high angle that the little buggers couldn't climb. See the angle of the ewe's three panel shelter below. ;-)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ready for Breeding Season

We finished hoof trimming and worming the ewe flock this morning! We started last Monday, but had to stop early when Garrett & Rayna arrived to pick up his ewes. Kathy Davidson also came over with BFL ewe lambs for Garrett, they were gorgeous! So it was a welcome interruption from hoof trimming.

This morning we finished off the last four ewes.This is the first time I've had to trim all the hooves myself. Something changed when we built the pole building - or was it when we started supplementing with some nice alfalfa hay? For some reason, the hooves in my flock are growing like wild fire. I used to get by with having them trimmed at shearing - once a year, that was it. But this year they were done at shearing (end of February) and needed it again by mid-May! And they surely needed it again this fall. Maybe it's the fact that we have had plenty of rain this year...

Anyway, the ewes' hooves are trimmed and I decided to worm them while we were at it. We have lots of big round tummies around here. I started thinking maybe that was a sign of worms. I know the FAMACHA test is only for the blood sucking worms, so there could be others in residence even if the mucus membranes are pink. My lambs have never been wormed in their lives and the ewes were only wormed in the lambing jugs, so I thought, what the heck, I'll give them a dose of Prohibit (levamisole) and they should be all set for breeding season this year. It feels so good to know they are done!

I haven't mentioned this to Stan yet, but now we should tip the BFL rams and do their hooves too. Dougal must be at least 175 pounds. We still have 10 ram lambs in residence, but five will go for slaughter this fall, so no need to do their hooves or worm them.

I will keep two polled ram lambs (our still unnamed Ile de France and Socks, a Shetland Mule wether), and three very nice looking horned Shetland ram lambs -- a shaela, fawn and moorit smirslet out of Windswept Boggart (our dearly departed prize winning ram). They are just too nice to send to slaughter!This decision means I could end up running three ram pens this winter and one ewe pen. I know, that's crazy! But I don't want to breed my ewe lambs, and I don't the little polled boys getting hurt with the horned boys. I may be able to house the little polled guys with the BFL rams. I tried it for a while last week and they seemed to be fine until I saw Dougal pummel the Ile de France against a fence. We'll just have to wait and see how things go this winter.
In the meantime, if anyone needs a horned Shetland ram lamb, let me know. I would be happy to get creative with ways to move them out or loan them out. :-)

I also finished shearing Cora a couple days ago. She went into the rise after her bout with mastitis in late July. I rooed a lot of her neck/chest wool, but then I had to get out the handshears to complete the job. Unfortunately, she got tired of it and walked off to graze when I was this far along...
She looked like that for a couple weeks until I seized the opportunity to finish her up last Thursday morning. I think she looks great now. And the fleece that I got from her is really nice. I've decided to retain her (and her 9-year-old dam with a micron of 25) after all. She's got one good side to her bag. If I have to bottle feed a twin next spring, I can do it.