Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Fresh Snow!

We woke up to lots of fresh snow this morning. I took out a ruler and measured 11" of snow on the deck table when I went out to feed the sheep. We've had at least another inch since then. I have to work at 3 o'cock this afternoon, so I hope it stops by then. Fortunately it's light fluffy stuff, easy to shovel. Stan shoveled a bit and went to work this morning at 9. The propane truck came shortly afterward with our minimum fill delivery - ouch! Even with a 20 cents a gallon price drop, that propane is costly this year! Thank goodness we supplement with wood.
Ozzie helps me with chores every morning, I stopped to get this photo of him and Harrison's breeding group this morning.
Above is a photo of the heated 5 gallon water bucket in Harrison's breeding pen. I have four of these going in the various sheep pens. Yes, I do keep water available to my sheep even with all the snow. Some days they don't drink much at all, but other days they really go for it. I'm looking forward to breaking up the breeding groups soon and just having two pens of sheep for the rest of the winter.

My goal this winter is to keep this slider door in the pole barn operational all winter. I picked away at it last week and got it working again, but as you can see, the snow came right in last night. I shoveled it right away and closed the door. I'll open it back up before I leave for work this afternoon. I figure if I make sure to open and close the slider every day, I can keep it working all year.

I just found the information about the Indianhead (WI) Sheep Breeder's Association's Shepherd's Clinic for 2009, http://www.indianheadsheep.com/index_files/Page375.htm. I am very excited to see that Woody Lane will be the featured speaker. I've had the pleasure of hearing him speak before and I know he's very knowledgeable and entertaining. I'm definitely going to the ISSBA Shepherd's Clinic again this year! Even though it's always scheduled the same weekend as Mora's big Vasaloppet Ski Race and our annual art show. Not to mention the weather can be downright nasty that time of year. But it's really worthwhile to go. They always serve a delicious lamb lunch and have an auction (which is lots of fun) in addition to the shepherding classes offered.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

All the gang here is Wishing you a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanuka or whatever holiday you may be celebrating.

Starting with our mama Kitty...the ewe lambs...Beechtree Lanora...
Elsa's Shetland Mule ewe lamb - Elsie (or is it Emmy?)
The polled boys...The Shetland flock matron, Bramble Cordelia..Guest ram, Kimberwood Harrison...
Bo and Lana...
Jemma's Shetland Mule ewe lamb...and Ozzie...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowy landscape, but thinking GREEN

We've been getting some snow to make things Christmas-y. I don't mind the snow as much as I mind the COLD temps. Poor Bramble Cordelia was limping with a frozen foot the other morning when temps were around -20F. I made sure to put out plenty of bedding in their 3-sided shelter, but I'm afraid she slept outside. I think I will remove her from the breeding pen and put her in with the ewe lambs who have access to the pole building.

We've been keeping the woodstove stoked and trying to keep up with shoveling out the driveways and paths to the barns and woodpile. We'll need to get a couple loads of hay from the west 40 over in Ogilvie, so that means THAT driveway needs plowing too. Stan loves the Kawasaki Mule for snow plowing. He does all of our plowing plus some of the neighbor's driveways (and a path down the road to the neighbor's place). Yes, that Mule is really handy, I love it too for hauling things around the place and cleaning out pastures and the little barn.

Even though it's snowy white outside here in Minnesota, I've been thinking green lately.
I can't believe how much plastic we use and throw away everyday at work -- the garbage liners, the gloves, the food packaging -- it's just a shame. In my view, the more we can do to consume as little as possible and make use of the garbage we generate, the better. We need to be good stewards of the land and the resources we have been blessed with. That's part of the reason why we keep a dog and chickens. With them around, there are very few scraps for the compost pile. It's also the reason I check the thrift stores and the auctions and why I try to make use of everything our sheep have to offer - the meat, the hides, the lambs, the wool, the skulls, and even the manure. They provide so much that we can use, and with proper management, they can even improve our land. It's truly amazing.

So with green thoughts in mind, I thought I would share my latest forays into making laundry soap.

I used to buy the 5 gallon buckets of powdered laundry soap, they weighed 30 lbs and were priced at only $8 or $9. After the detergent was gone, I had a nice new 5 gallon bucket with handle for watering the sheep. :-)

Since I haven't been able to find that laundry soap anymore, I started making my own out of one grated bar of Fels Naptha, one cup of Twenty Mule Team Borax and one cup of washing soda. I use only 2 tablespoons of this mixture per load, and the cost is about 9 cents a load. An added bonus when using this soap is there is no need for fabric softener.
Yes, I know the Fels Naptha contains petroleum products and I should make my own laundry soap bars out of lard, water and lye. One of these days I will, but I have to confess that I love the smell of the Fels Naptha.
Anyway, I was pretty excited about using this homemade laundry soap until my mother said she had tried homemade laundry soap and it left her clothes dingy. Suddenly my whites did seem dingy... so for washing our whites, I still use a little commercial detergent, bleach, and fabric softener. But I love the Angora brand fabric softener at FleetFarm because it comes in small packets. You just mix a half gallon of water with one packet and there is very little waste packaging. It's very inexpensive too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First Place!

Woo-hoo! My felted wool painting won first place in the "Other Art Forms" category at the regional art show this past weekend. What a surprise that was! There was some pretty stiff competition in that category too. I really need to do more of these, I've had such a positive response to the ones I've displayed in area shows. I'd love to do a large landscape piece of our pond in the snow.
Above is the photo of Lana and Bo that I promised in my last post. They are such a cute pair.
Below is a shot of Kimberwood Harrison (polled black gulmoget) and River Oaks Hannah. Harrison is such a nice ram, very nice temperament. Absolutely no trouble at all.

Sunday I hosted my dad's 80th birthday party. Unfortunately, the guest of honor was over two hours late. It was snowing pretty good that day and we really got worried about him - he's never, ever late. I called the sheriff's offices of Pine, Kanabec and Burnett counties asking about accidents. We even had the Burnett county sheriff check on his house to make sure he wasn't there unable to answer the phone. The things that go through your mind in a situation like that. It wasn't too long after the sheriff's office called back, saying his van was gone and there were tire tracks in the snow, that our doorbell rang and there he was! Thank goodness he just misunderstood the start time of the party. :-))

I'm knitting an earflap hat designed by Kirsten Kapur. She calls it the Thorpe hat, you can find the free directions here. It went very fast on bulky handspun yarn (from Sheepy Hollow Rachel) and US size 9 needles. I managed to get the hat knitted within 24 hours. I just need to add the crochet trim and the braids now. I think I will full it in the washer. I made it in the largest size which is a little too large for me, so fulling it will make it smaller and warmer.

My next project is to make a queen size comforter with my 3.5 pound Shetland wool batt and two flat sheets. It's for our oldest son's Christmas present. There's nothing like sleeping under a nice thick wool comforter!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Had to share this link - cute Sheep ad

Ron Parker sent this to the Sheep-L list, I thought you might enjoy it too.
http://www.tele2.se/

It's a link to some ads that feature a black sheep. I see shades of BFL in the main character - if only he would hold his ears upright. The video at the bottom of the page is cute and very short. The one on the side of the page took a little long for my computer to download, and it was more of a commercial, so I didn't watch the whole thing.

Here on the home front, McIntire and his two half brothers are gone to their new home. Bo and Lana are together in a breeding pen. I need to take a photo of them. They look so cute together, but they are both quite young to be breeding. Oh well, if she doesn't take, it's no big deal. If she does take, I'm sure she'll do just fine.

This afternoon I heard what I thought was the garage service door blowing closed, over and over. Then I remembered why I don't put my Shetland rams near my fiberglass calf huts. I forgot about that when I hastily put Bo and Lana in with two fiberglass huts. Even though Bo has small horns, he's discovered how to use them. :-)

Okay, back to work cleaning this house for my dad's 80th birthday party!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Breeding Groups Finalized

Well, I can finally say it, my breeding plans are pretty much set in stone now.
On Saturday I sent my two BFL rams off to other farms. Our white BFL ram, Dougal, was in with our two BFL ewes for three weeks. He is now at home in Terri Drimel's flock. Our natural colored BFL ram, Granite, was pulled from his group of five ewes and is being leased to Kimberwood in trade for the services of Kimberwood Harrison.

I put Kimberwood Harrison in with 6 ewes this weekend. I got home with Harrison after dark and had to move the BFL ewes out of the breeding pen and back into the pole building before I could let Harrison out. Of course I didn't want him to be all alone the first night, so I was glad that our unregistered Shetland ewe, Mabeline and her yearling Shetland Mule daughter followed me out into the dark and then had the good sense to respond to the alfalfa hay I used to lure them into the breeding pen.
Harrison was reticent to leave the dog kennel at first, so I just left him in there with the door open. It wasn't long before he got the scent of EWES and jumped into action. Much to poor Mabeline's dismay.Sunday morning I added Bramble Cordelia (F1 Minder fawn katmoget), River Oaks Hannah (F2 Holly, moorit), and her twin sister River Oaks Hattie (black smirslet), Hattie's 2008 ewe lamb, Leonie (moorit/fawn).

Yes, I decided to breed my two Shetland ewe lambs after all. Using them will increase my chances for a moorit gulmoget lamb next year. I've decided to put River Oaks Lana (black gulmoget 2008 Harrison daughter) in with River Oaks Bo (moorit krunet F3 Minder with aberrant horns). Sorry no recent photos of Bo...this one is from August.We are not exposing the Shetland Mule ewe lambs or the BFL ewe lambs this year.
River Oaks McIntire will be leaving for his new home in a day or two. I think he is one of our best ram lambs ever born here. So I'm glad he'll be close by in case I want to buy one of his ram lambs someday. I'd like to get some better photos of him before he goes.Hopefully, McIntire will be taking his other two half brothers along with him for company. :-))
They were destined for slaughter due to their tight horns. I was tempted to wether the mioget one with the wooly poll and cheeks. But it looks like someone else may do it instead.
That will leave Bo as the only Shetland ram left here. And I think he will be okay with my polled boys since his horns are so small. He's got great fleece and a nice little tail. I'll probably use him as a clean up ram after Harrison leaves. Then Granite will be the clean up ram for the BFLs and the yearling Shetland Mules.

There, that sounds like a plan! Let's hope the girls agree with it. :-)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Eggs! Beautiful Eggs

Recently I've noticed blog posts about the beautiful eggs that chickens have been laying in flocks all over the country. My own five month old pullets started laying a month ago and it's always a joy to find those first eggs, with their strong, colorful shells. The early eggs are especially dark, they range from small to extra large double yolk eggs as shown below. Those poor pullets!


I've been blowing out the smaller ones for egg decorating someday when I get around to it again. There are so many ways to turn eggs into art, but for some reason, wax resist egg decorating was the one that took my breath away nine years ago. I totally immersed myself in it, learning as much as I could via the Internet, books, workshops and mentoring with Luba Perchyschyn. The duck egg below is from one of her design books...As the years went by, I saw some of my brilliant dyes fade away, as this acid etched brown egg did, it's now a lilac color... but the brown layers of the colored shell are still there. So that's why I want to focus more on acid etching, it's more durable and add texture as well.


The one below is an etched and dyed brown pullet egg which hasn't faded in the least.


Sorry I don't have a photo of just an acid etched (not dyed) brown chicken egg. I've had people tell me those eggs remind them of lace - imagine that, the two mediums blend together as they are filtered through my senses!

This one is a duck egg that was dyed and then etched back to white. It was my first attempt at etching and it's very simple. I love working on duck eggs especially, they are SO smooth!


And this one is a turkey egg shell... they can be bumpy, but the bumps come off with a vinegar wipe.I also love working on goose egg shells. They are so large...this one was a failed attempt that I resurrected with permanent maker and bleach. We were doing a figure show that spring so I put nudes on eggs. LOL.


I've done a few rhea, one ostrich and several emu eggshells too. The one below was a very special emu egg, I lucked out getting one with such a smooth surface and it had an extra light layer of shell over the typical dark green color.