Sunday, March 29, 2009

I hate to admit this, but...

I was shocked at shearing to see how thin my sheep were. I immediately started them on corn and alfalfa pellets once a day. They are also getting good alfalfa hay at both feedings.

I really should have had our hay tested to see what the nutrient level was.

The Bluefaced Leicester ewes should be due in 2-3 weeks, if they are pregnant. They hardly even look pregnant except for their developing bags which are about grapefruit size. Here's Lanora...

Of course, we do have some easy keepers who are already pretty big, like Hattie...who isn't even due until after April 25th.

And Mabeline....I have her due date on the calendar for April 12th. She is our only ewe bred to produce Shetland Mule lambs this year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whew! I got the grant and shearing's done!

It has been a busy spring! Back on Feb. 1st, I applied for an artist's grant so I could attend the Midwest Felting Symposium in Madison, WI this summer. Last night I was invited to give a 10 minute presentation to the Arts Council prior to their scoring of the applications. Man, that 10 minutes flew by like two seconds! This morning after the shearer left I worked up the courage to call and find out the verdict. Woo-hoo! Madison, here I come!

I'll be taking advantage of the "All You Can Felt" special tuition rate. Two days of resist dyeing techniques with Chad Alice Hagen of North Carolina, and a day of wool painting with Andrea Graham of Ontario Canada, and a day of needle felted dog sculpture with SINCO of Japan, and a day of embroidered felted jewelry with Annemie Koenen of the Netherlands. I will be so tired after all that. But what a great variety of classes, huh?

Okay, back to the sheep, there were no major cuts, just some nicks. They had their hooves trimmed and got their CDT shots. I've decided I am going to start graining them, they look thin to me. The BFLs and Mules who are due in April will get up to about a 1 pound daily. And the Shetlands will get 1/2 pound daily. Our 10 year old Shetland, Cordelia looks the thinnest - I may put her in with the BFL amd mule group.

And now I have twentyone bags of wool to skirt! I skirted and washed three fleeces on Sunday too. I bought them from a gal who bought three modified ram lambs from me last fall. If I can get the new ones washed and shipped out to Zeilinger's this month I can still get in on that 25% off deal. Lots to do!
This is McIntyre's fleece sample, neck sample on the left, mid-side, and then britch sample. I'm having a hard time deciding if he's shaela or dark brown.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shearing Tomorrow

Here are a few shots of the ewes in full fleece.

This is Derra, our Shetland Mule out of Cocoa, a dual coated Shetland. Lots of wool on this one. I think she's due in early April.

You can see the Shetlands are definitely losing wool. Mabeline's mid-section could easily be rooed if I had the time. She's due in early April (on the left in the photo above). Our white yearling BFL, Leora is in front and another Shetland Mule in back.

River Oaks Hattie (F2 Holly) and her 2008 daughter, Leonie above.

Another Shetland Mule, with our gulmoget, Lana, and others behind her.

The BFL girls....

A close up of Leora, the yearling white BFL above. Her sire, Granite, below.

Yes, I know he's not a ewe, but he finally posed nicely for me. Too bad he's got all that hay stuck to him. It's always something!

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. the funs begins. We've had a nice warm up, so I don't think they will be too cold without their wool.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Time to set up the "Ewe Tube"/A New Job!

Woo-hoo, the temperature this morning is 14F ABOVE zero! That's 31 degrees warmer than it was yesterday morning. The past few days of snow and brutally cold winds have been made easier knowing that this weekend we're supposed to be up in the 40's. All I can say is thank heavens my shearing is scheduled for NEXT Wednesday rather than this week.

Here are my girls wondering why in the heck I was taking photos when I should have been dishing up their alfalfa hay this morning. I want to get some fleece shots of them too, but I will wait until after their feeding. Look at that bad little Shetland Mule yearling jumping up on poor Leonie's back end. She and her twin have are so exuberant at feeding time!

Also, see that blue piece of twine in the photo above? Well yesterday it become wrapped around poor Rhyn's scrapie tag, which you can see in the photo of my BFL ewes below. I went out to feed the girls and heard the unmistakable sound of a ewe in distress. My eyes scanned the flock to see who was down. Sure enough, there as a big lump of fleece staying put near the fenceline feeder. It was Rhyn, I don't know how long she was stuck like that, but fortunately she didn't rip her ear in two to get free.
This incident makes me all the more anxious to set up the barn cam again. There are so many things that could happen to the sheep while I'm in the house, I'll feel safer being able to tune into the ewe tube channel to see and hear if anyone is in trouble. Last year finding Hannah cast one morning was enough to get me to spring $120 for the barn cam.

I just liked the lighting on this photo from this morning, I feel kind of sorry to be shearing the girls when it's still cold out, but I've tried waiting until May for shearing and that has its own problems. This way my ewes will get their vaccinations and hooves trimmed and I will be able to monitor their condition in the last month of pregnancy.

Hey, I just got a call from the US Census Bureau and I've been hired! It's a temporary position lasting 8 weeks, training takes place in mid-April. The work will be the same time as our lambing, but I have to go for this. We need the money. I know lots of you work full time and manage to lamb successfully, hopefully all will go smoothly for me too. I'll see if I can keep my schedule in the deli down to a minimum too. I do enjoy that job, it's a great way to keep in touch with people from the community.

Monday, March 09, 2009

'da Boys - fleece shots

Our shearing is scheduled for March 18th, so I wanted to get some shots of the sheep in full fleece. The weather was great this weekend and I got a few photos of my ram pen. I am very happy with how well my rams and wether get along. It's nice to just have one pen of boys and a pen of ewes.

Here are all four of our boys, Shetland Mule wether, Socks, is in front, with his natural colored BFL dad, Granite directly behind him. Oh the left is our Ile de France/Dorset ram lamb, Peppy, and on the right is River Oaks Bo, our Shetland ram lamb.


Granite's fleece, upper back/shoulder area...

Socks' fleece - wow!

Bo's fleece, very soft, really not as gray as it appears here. I think he's actually fawn, not moorit.

The three intact boys, Granite, Bo and Peppy.


Size comparison of Bo (9 month old Shetland) and Granite (2 year old BFL). Notcie the Ag-like coloration of Granite's face. There is a lot of variation on the natural colored BFL's -- our natural colored BFL ewes are much darker overall.

Cute faces on Bo and Peppy, both were summer, 2008 lambs.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ninety Cents a bale!

The good news around here is hay is going cheap! I got some small squares for 90 cents a bale at the auction today. It's first crop alfalfa so it's stemmy, but my girls LOVE it.

I've started supplementing them with dairy quality alfalfa hay in the morning and they get their regular grass hay in the evening. But I don't want to use up all the dairy quality hay now and then not have any left when the lambs arrive.

The Bluefaced Leicesters and Shetland Mules are due to lamb in April and the Shetlands are due in May. It will be here before we know it.

Shearing is scheduled in just two weeks. I hope I don't find skinny sheep under all that fleece.

The other good news is that I have finally finished the Shepherd's Harvest booklet, you can download it at www.shepherdsharvestfestival.org. I can't wait to see the printed booklets, we went with a larger size and color covers this year.

More good news is that the Midwest Felting Symposium schedule is finally posted. I am hoping to be able to take the "All you can Felt" option for 5 full days of felting instruction. The symposium is hosted by Susan's Fiber Shop and takes place in Madison, WI. It's a lot of fun and there are some really good instructors coming again this year.