Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ozzie the Wonder Dog?!


Wow, I swear that Ozzie understands a lot of words!

Yes, we've already established that he thinks "Quiet!" means "bark louder!", but I've noticed that he really seems to understand certain words. When I say, "let's get the mail", he runs to the mail box and waits for me. When we mention "going to the land" he gets all excited wanting to come along. He knows where to go when I say we're going to feed "the boys" and where the "girls" and the "chickens" are. He also knows that Stan is supposed to come upstairs when I call, "supper is ready". He'll stand at the top of stairs looking down, waiting for Stan, getting nervous if he doesn't appear. :-)

Well, I just got home from dropping off some items for the new arts and crafts shop in town. Stan was outside getting wood and I asked if he had gotten the mail. He said yes, it was in the house on the counter. I went in and looked for it while I was taking off my coat and firing up the computer. I didn't see it anywhere. That is until I looked down and there sat Ozzie by my feet, with a letter in his mouth that was addressed to me! I immediately recognized it as an art show entry form and I grabbed it away from him thinking he would rip it to shreds any second. He looked like one of those St. Bernards with the flask rescuing the avalanche victim.

So then I asked Stan what was in the mail. He mentioned several of things, but not the letter that Ozzie gave me. We figure Stan must have dropped it somewhere and Ozzie picked it up and delivered it to me when I asked about the mail. And it didn't have a tooth mark on it. :-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flock Goals for 2009

Garrett, Sabrina, and Carol got me thinking about what my flock goals are for the coming year. Since I'm in the midst of writing up a grant proposal for this summer, my thoughts are definitely in the planning mode today.

1.) First and foremost for my flock, I hope to have my Bluefaced Leicester ewes lamb out twins without too much trouble. If they can do that, I will likely reduce my purebred Shetland numbers further. I really love the BFLs, their personalities, their fleece and their overall conformation. But last year lambing out the BFLs was so stressful I decided to wait and see if raising purebred BFLs was something that would be compatible with me and my management style.
We have actually been quite lucky with our BFLs, unlike friends who've bought BFLs, we haven't lost a single one - knocking on wood here. The BFL ewe lambs born here last spring were raised exactly like our Shetland lambs, on pasture and hay. They were wormed in the fall with the rest of the ewe flock and they seem to be doing fine. So the raising them up part seems to be compatible, hopefully the lambing out part will be better now that my ewes are experienced mothers. If I can't manage breeding purebred BFLs, I would settle for breeding the crosses and just keeping a collection of purebred BFLs for fiber.

Oh yeah, one more little detail, I just hope my BFL ewes are BRED. They were only in with the ram for 21 days. That should have been long enough, but I prefer to leave them together for 35 days.

2.) As for the Shetlands, I've got five ewes bred for purebred lambs. I'm hoping for more solid-sided gulmoget lambs out of Kimberwood Harrison. I'm also hoping to get a moorit gulmoget. Harrison may be homozygous Black, so we'll have to see if we get any moorits. River Oaks Lana is hopefully bred to Bo, a moorit, so there's hope for a moorit gulmoget there too. And the other thing I'm hoping for is polled Shetland ram lambs this spring -- unless we get all ewe lambs. :-)

3.) I have only one ewe bred to produce Shetland Mules this spring. I haven't found much of a market for the Shetland Mules so far. But I am happy to keep them for myself (I have 6 now). Their fleece is very nice (there's a good market for that!) and they will give me market lambs in the future when bred to the Ile de France/Dorset ram.

4.) We have at least three mules bred to produce 3/4 BFL lambs for slaughter next fall. We had hoped for Ile de France sired market lambs, but that didn't work out this year. I found last year's 3/4 lambs to be fast growing and their fleeces were of excellent quality. We didn't slaughter them until January, next year we'll do it in October or November at the latest to save the hay expense. Also, ALL my crossbred ram lambs will be wethered this spring.

5.) As for fleece, I'd like to see my BFLs micron tests come back finer, but I really can't complain about their fleece in the least. I'll likely be in the market for a new BFL ram (see item #1). I want a white one who carries color. I'd like to bring in a line that I don't currently have.

As for Shetland fleece, Kimberwood Harrison has wonderfully fine, soft fleece, so I'm confident his lambs will be an improvement over their dams' fleece. His two lambs from last year, Lana and a 3/4 Shetland, have very nice crimpy fleece. I will be able to get a better look at Lana's in March after shearing. Harrison seems to have some length in his coat, so I hope that will be imparted to the lambs out of my two F2 Holly ewes who have the shorter crimpy UK fleece themselves. Our F1 Minder ewe's fleece microned at 25.9 last year which wasn't bad at all for a nine year old.

6.) For our land in Ogilvie, I would like to put a few beef calves on the 20 acres of pasture. This might not actually get done because of financial concerns. It would mean fencing off the east side of our land and getting a power source for the electric fence. I wonder if my Premier 20B Intelli-shock portable battery would do the trick? We would also have to haul water over there, but I think that is do-able. I can't pasture my sheep over there because of predators. Our hay man has had his cattle there and they do just fine. I would like to utilize all that forage.

7.) I'm resigned to staying here in our current house on 5 acres with the sheep. We've got it pretty well set up for a small flock. We need to keep the flock small because of our limited acreage here. That's okay, because I much prefer having a small friendly flock that is easily handled. We never have to chase our sheep, we just wait for them to come back where they belong. With the limited pasture here, we supplement with hay year round, which keeps the flock and the new lambs friendly and manageable. It all works pretty well. Thankfully, we get hay off our 15 acres of hay fields, so it's not a big expense -- if we have enough rainfall for the hay crop.

8.) There are always changes to plans and goals. Some changes I'm contemplating right now are: getting a Cheviot ram lamb this summer to breed to the mature Shetland ewes next fall. I almost bought one this fall.
Also, I have a line on a Wensleydale ram to use on some of my BFL ewes next fall (again, see item #1). I've got a sample of BFL/Wensleydale fleece and it's fabulous. Long, purled, and SOFT.

We'll just have to wait and see how things go this year. Now back to my grant!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Healthy Flock / Sheep Minerals/ On the Radio Too!

It's easy to take it for granted -- the joy and ease of a healthy flock of sheep. I've been feeling very blessed each morning when I go out and see all the sheep up and eager to be fed. No limping, no coughing, no loss of appetite, no runny poops, and no bloody heads in the ram pen. Yes, life is good. And hopefully plenty of little lambs are on the way for spring. So for now, life is easy.

Oh sure, we'll get more snow and there's a bitter cold front on the way. But the sheep don't mind the cold temps as long as they have shelter from the wind and bedding to keep them warm. The cold snap is not supposed to last very long.

I've decided to bring soon-to-be 10 year old Bramble Cordelia a handful of alfalfa pellets every day. She looks to be in good shape, but she may need a little extra to make it through another year and another pregnancy. I'm also using the pellets to tame Lana, our little black gulmoget ewe lamb. She's at the bottom of the pecking order in the ewe flock.
Cordelia is on the left in the photo above and next to her is Lana. Shadowing over Lana is Rhyn (BFL) and her daughter, Rhaya. Our other almost yearling BFL ewe, Leora, is behind Rhaya.

In this photo is our unregistered Shetland ewe, Mabeline and Lana. Mabeline gave me the nicest Mule lambs last year without losing condition. That is why she stayed here and the more delicate unregistered Shetland ewes found pet homes.

This is a shot of Mabeline's 2007 Shetland Mule daughter and Ozzie. I'm really thankful for Ozzie too. He's really turned into a great farm dog. Always ready to help me with the chores. Faithfully waiting outside closed barn doors at times and always ready if I see a mouse in the chicken feed bin. His fur is very silky soft. I've got a bunch of it saved to spin. Ozzie's only drawback is his incessant barking whenever anyone pulls in the driveway -- even us!

I'm checking on a new mineral put out by Pipestone Vets Big Gain program. There's a local supplier and the price looks right. But I'm waiting to see an actual breakdown of the mineral contents. We haven't had problems with mineral deficiencies using the Land O'Lakes sheep mineral with 37 ppm selenium, but I've heard that we should have 90 ppm selenium in this area of the country. The cheaper mineral locally available is only 30 ppm selenium.

Things have been so busy here with the art show coming up in two weeks. Bright and early yesterday morning I had to do a radio interview on how to enter the show (the entries are being sent to me - I'll do the title cards and show brochure, etc.). Public speaking always unnerves me, but it was very spur of the moment so I didn't have to worry about it long - just overnight. :-) We are so lucky to have a live and local radio station here in Mora. They are very supportive of the arts in this area. Within just minutes of doing the interview, I got a call from a listener who wanted to enter. :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Felted Hat - Take 2


Just what I needed, a little help from my friends! How did you know that's my favorite color Michelle?
Does it have to special hat lace or will regular lace do the trick?

I got a whole bag of lace odds and ends for 25 cents a couple months ago. I keep my dyes on hand and only had Copenhagen blue already mixed. I thought it might bleed out so my first attempt at dyeing the lace was too dark, but the second try looks just right. I just dipped it in the dye and sprayed it with vinegar and water, then microwaved it for 20 seconds. The color set very quickly and is not bleeding out.

Now I'd better hop in the shower before my husband comes home for lunch. Notice all the stuff on the table, hopefully he won't be hungry. LOL

Rayna, you would look so cute in a hat like this. I may have to go into production. :-)

A Felted Hat!

Well, the weather has warmed up considerably and the boys are getting along. They only spent about 9 hours locked up in the catch pen. And then three days locked inside the 8 x 16' lean-to with actual temps outside falling to -35F. But now all is back to normal, even better than normal with only TWO pens to feed and water and only 20 sheep. BTW, if anyone is need of a cute little Shetland ram, Bo is for sale. And so is Granite, check our website for more details, www.riveroakssheep.com

I have signed up to participate in a new shop called "Made of Mora", which will be opening Feb. 1st here in Mora. That and I am hoping to teach some spinning and felting classes up in Isle, MN at my friend's booth in "Someday Isle". Oh and we can't forget the Vasaloppet Art Show that will be taking place Feb. 6 to 8 -- I'll need four pieces for that too. So I am under the gun to produce more work.

Yesterday I dug out all my felting stuff, the pool cover pieces, the fibers, the plastic, the silk -- every surface in my kitchen is covered with fiber-related items.

The first thing I wanted to make was a hat for myself. I have to wear a hat at my deli job and when I take it off, my hair is all smashed down. And then if I have business to do in town, I look just awful. So I wanted something cute to put on when I leave work.I was planning on making a cute little derby hat, but instead I wound up with this Indiana Jones hat. The wet felt is like clay, you can really mold and shape it once it starts shrinking down, but the crown was too high for a derby and I had to crimp it in. I still need to figure out a band treatment that will make it look more feminine. It's kind of Annie Hall style right now. And it could be a little heavier, it weighs less than three ounces. I did five layers of fiber, but I must have gone too thin in each layer, because it's still very lightweight.

The natural colored Bluefaced Leicester fiber was a dream to felt and full. I really love it. I'm so glad to have my own source of BFL fiber right here. I may try making a seamless vest for my husband out of it too. He always wears a vest at work to keep warm, but I haven't gotten around to knitting him one -- and to tell you the truth, the thought doesn't excite me nearly as much as felting him one. :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning to Get Along

Well, the time has finally come. I put all the boys together and all the ewes together yesterday. So I'm down to just TWO pens to feed and water and only 20 sheep. The three 3/4 cross rams went to slaughter yesterday. At least they don't have to experience this bitter cold spell we're having. It was -27F this morning.

In the photo above is Bo, our only Shetland ram lamb, Beechtree Granite, our almost two year old natural colored BFL ram, Socks a 2008 Shetland Mule wether, and Peppy, our 2008 Ile de France/Dorset ram lamb.

Of course, when I put Bo in the 8 x 16' lean-to with the polled guys, he began chasing, butting and jumping on everyone else. He and Granite were really butting heads and Granite had a little bleeding. I just can't stand to see anyone get hurt in a situation like this, least of all my sweet, docile Granite! So I put them all together in my handy-dandy catch-pen. It's just a 16' hog panel which has bent into a U shape. I tie a 4' hog panel to the end for a gate. That thing has been the handiest item I've ever purchased. I use it as a lambing jug, a shelter (covered with a tarp), moving groups of sheep, displaying sheep when I do booths, inside the truck topper to protect the windows from ram's horns, and lots of other things throughout the year.

The boys have to maneuver around a hay feeder in there, so I hope they can't do much damage to each other. They have plenty of bedding for warmth, and they are inside a shelter out of the wind (our high temp today is supposed to be -5F). What more could I do? Oh yes, sprinkle them with cheap perfume! I'll try that too. I'm hoping they will get used to each other within a day; this cold spell is supposed to last until Friday.

Look at poor Rhaya's swollen nose! It's gone down some since this photo was taken on 12/23/09, but I wonder what's going on there. I saw it but didn't really think about it being a problem for the first week or so. It seems smaller now, so maybe it's nothing to worry about. None of the other sheep have this and it doesn't seem to be affecting her as far as eating, drinking, etc. If anyone has any ideas about it, I would be happy to hear them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Granite's home and Bo is Happy

Kim Nikolai came to pick up Harrison yesterday and she brought our natural colored BFL ram, Granite, back home to us. I was dreading having to shovel and pick away all the snow and ice to get my fences undone and move the sheep around. But it all went surprisingly well. Thankfully the temps were in the twenties, so the weather wasn't bad at all.

Harrison calmly followed his ewe group into the pole building and was enticed into the catch pen with a little alfalfa.

When Granite was unloaded and placed in his intended pen, he promptly jumped right out. Fortunately he happy to be home, but just a little confused about where he should stay. After seeing that his old pen was now occupied by Bo and Lana, he followed me through the backyard, the garage, the driveway and over to the little red barn where he hopped into the lean-to pen with the five polled boys. He's such a nice fellow. There was a little head butting and he seems to have a thing for the Ile de France/Dorset ram lamb, but they are all getting along okay.

Then it was time to put Lana back with the ewes and get Bo in a different pen with a wether. That's when things went awry. Little Bo was looking so good and he was so happy to see all the ewes in the pole building. I wound up putting him in Granite's empty pen with FIVE Shetland mules. What a happy little guy he was! This means three Shetland Mule ewe lambs will be exposed that I wasn't planning on breeding. I'll just leave them together for one week, until the three polled boys go to the Braham Food locker. Maybe the Mule ewe lambs won't get bred. I shouldn't have deviated from my plans, but when you start thinking about the possibilities, all the planning seems to go by the wayside.

Making a Wool Duvet Comforter

Here are photos from making a wool duvet comforter before Christmas. I didn't want to post them until after giving it as a Christmas gift.

Warning: this is just the way I do this and it seems to work for me. If you find yourself with lots of extra wool, you might want to make a few of these for your family too.

First, start out with a queen size comforter batt (about 4 pounds of wool, I have my coarser britch wool made into quilt batts - coarse Shetland and BFL isn't really that coarse) and two queen size flat sheets. I don't bother buying real expensive sheets for this anymore, the wool has a tendency to migrate out of the sheets regardless. I'll never forget the night poor Stan was snoring away and inhaled in a wool fiber from my first comforter in the middle of the night. Oh the coughing! It lasted for such a long time despite his getting drinks of water. It's funny now, but I didn't dare tell him at the time that I knew what had happened. After that night I vowed to put the comforter in a duvet like I should have done in the first. It makes all the difference.

Okay, sew the sheets right sides together at one end. Then spread one sheet out flat on the living room floor wrong side up.
Now unroll the wool batt on the sheet...I love the batts Zeilinger's makes, they are all one piece! Here is the batt completely unfolded on the sheet. If you don't have one solid queen size batt, just lay the lengths of batting evenly over the sheet.

You can adjust the batt to fit, but make sure you have enough room on the unsewn sides to fold the edges in and pin them together...Here it's all pinned together...don't try to sew the edges together yet!First you need to tie it together with a needle and some handspun yarn. I don't have any quilting equipment so I just kneel on the quilt and start with a tie smack dab in the center. Then I add another one half way between the first tie and the edge, working in all four directions.

From there I add ties midway between the ties and eventually it looks like this... You can sew the folded edges together anytime after you've got enough ties in place to keep the batt from clumping up. I just top stitch 1/4 inch from the edge all the way around, including the sewn side.

The whole project only takes a couple hours. Wool is so nice to sleep under, we use our 5 pound quilt only during the fall, winter and spring though. It's too heavy for summer use. But I'd bet a lighter weight wool comforter would be just fine in the summer.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Looking Forward to 2009

Happy New Year!!

I always love New Year's Day. I usually take it easy, recuperating from the night before - I just can't take late nights out like I used to. But this year we left before the stroke of midnight since Stan had to work at 7 a.m. New Year's Day.

We made it past the all the hub-bub of Christmas and now it's time to start clearing out the cobwebs -- reassess things and try to make them better. This time of year I always start thinking about painting the walls, cleaning the carpets, getting new window treatments, putting in ceramic tile, etc. Little by little, the days are starting to get longer and before we know it, spring will be coming. That means doing the taxes, filling out the FAFSA, shearing and lambing, a new garden - so much to look forward to.

But in the meantime we have sunny bright COLD days with a thick marshmallow blanket of snow to deal with. I love that I can feed and close up the chickens and the sheep by 4:30 in the afternoon and then settle in for the whole evening.

Right now I'm reading "The Friday Night Knitter's Club" by Kate Jacobs. My son gave it to me for Christmas along with a bag of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolates. (Someone HAD to be coaching him on that decision!) He liked the blurb on the book jacket that reading this book would make one "yearn for yarn". It's pretty good so far - I'm about 2/3 through it already and the dark chocolates are long gone. :^)

I'm off work until Sunday afternoon, so I plan to do more felting while I'm home. I started a new landscape wool painting this week and I am finishing up a little felted purse. I hope to do a hat or large bag if I get off this computer soon.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks so much to everyone who bought sheep, wool, hides, yarn, knitted items or soap from us this year. Without your support and patronage, I wouldn't be able to continue living out my dream come true of having sheep.

And thanks so much to all the wonderful sheep and wool friends who helped me get through over 10 months of unemployment by sharing their knowledge and friendship. I really did have a blast this year. The travel experiences and learning opportunities were a wonderful reminder of all the great things the universe has to send our way, even when we feel we have nothing to offer in return.