Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


Damian in the aftermath of gift opening this morning...


The ewes heading out when they saw me coming this morning.



Finished up Alex's handspun handknit socks this morning.  It was a good thing we got snowed in so I could finish them.  I'll put a turkey in the oven this afternoon. We've got a puzzle to work on  and of course the wet sticky snow would make a great snowman.... :-)


Here are the finished baby sweaters before I delivered them on Tuesday.


And I have to include these photos of Camille on Christmas Eve day.  She's such a ham.



Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas!
 



Sunday, December 20, 2009

How can I say No?




I just can't. 



So Shachah still comes in for his daily nap.  He just wants to be part of the family too. He looks deceptively small in this photo because Ozzie's on the top step. The good thing is Shachah can't stand to stay in the house very long.

 He here is on duty this morning.



I put Greyson in with the other rams. Granite was chasing him so I tight penned the whole bunch of them overnight.  Look at how little Greyson is compared to them! (The only panel I could find for the end of the catch pen was a cut away creep feeder panel.)  I let them out this morning after taking this photo, but they are still confined in the lean-to which is 8 x 16 feet.  I'm going to run out and check on them now.  I sure wouldn't want anything to happen to Greyson, but I don't want to run three pens of sheep if I can avoid it.

Last week we lost a Barred Rock hen, of course it had to be one of the Barred Rocks, it couldn't have been one of the old girls I need to cull.  I'm pretty sure a young fox  got her. I found tracks and feathers in the snow. Usually a fox doesn't leave much of mess, just a few feathers.  But there were about three small clumps of grey feathers in this case so I figured it was one of the young foxes that mother fox raised out by the pond last summer -- you may remember that I found the kits chasing my sheep in the pasture one hot summer day.  The foxes bug Shachah at night too. He's penned with the ewes so he can't go chasing after them or protect the chicken pen, but he barks and they call back to him.

We had been gone and didn't get home until after dark.  Stan fed the sheep for me and closed up the chicken pen not realizing that FIVE hens were not inside. I'm not sure what exactly happened, the chickens always come in before dusk.  I found a Salmon Faverolle hen huddled in the snow the next morning and two Barred Rocks and a red sex-link hen in the rams hoop house.  The red hen was missing her tail feathers, which I later found in the snow too. Now my remaining 13 hens and the Shetland geese are locked up in a covered pen 24/7.

The Shetland geese seem plenty big to me. Here they are this morning.



They very seldom go into the shelters I have provided for them - only once have I seen them come out of their dog house when it was about -10F.  I bring them a fresh bucket of water every morning and evening. I have noticed the females will go inside the barn for the chickens heated water every once in a while, but the ganders stay out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sheep Pottery, etc.


Here's a photo of some things I wanted to share with you. First is the beautiful sheep pottery.  You may recall that I got the two sheep mugs in trade this past year and now I've been gifted with a matching pitcher!  I will get better photos later.  These were done by my friends Paul & Denise Morris.

Also notice the cute little felted baskets/bags given to me by my new friend, Bro.  The one on the left has a wire handle. They have wonderful little leather labels inside and a hang tang complete with a photo of their makers.  Very cute and a great idea for labeling.  I've been pondering how to label my felt pieces for a while now.

I finished the diagonal lace alpaca scarf a couple weeks ago. It's really long.  I don't know why I made it, I can't wear alpaca, it makes me cough.  Same thing happens when I wear angora.  I found that out way back in high school when I bought the cutest soft pink angora sweater.  Anyway, I've had this alpaca yarn for about 4-5 years so at least I've finally used it up and this scarf can be a gift or put up for sale.

And you can see in the photo, I broke down and bought myself a cute little RED poinsettia.  I always try to resist buying poinsettias at Christmas time because they never die!  I've had a plum/mauve one for a couple years now. I put it outside in the summer and it gets big and bushy.  It's blooming now too...but I wanted a real red one, so now I have yet another thing to take care of.

And last, but not least in the photo are two balls of combed top ready to be boxed and shipped out to my friend Di in New Jersey. I love that musket combed top!The white is Shetland Mule fiber (50/50 BFL and Shetland).  The Shetland mule has luster thanks to the BFL genetics.

I made jams the other day. I always freeze my raspberries in the summer and fall since I have everbearing plants. My usual raspberry jam went perfectly according to plan/recipe.  Raspberry jam is my favorite. 
But I also had odd amounts of blueberries and wild blackberries in the freezer too, not enough for a whole batch of either one, so I mixed them together and made Black and Blueberry Jam.
It turned out very tasty despite all the mistakes I made.  I couldn't believe how many things I did wrong on that batch!  I used 2.5 cups of crushed blueberries and 2 cups of crushed blackberries.  Instead of seven cups of sugar I put in NINE!  So I decided to add water - what the heck.  And then it boiled over (just took a quick glace at my email), oh my, what a mess!  But it's jelled and tastes great, so all is well in the end.

Sorry this is so short and rambling, I've got to get out and feed the sheep before I head to work.  Thankfully our temperatures have risen overnight. I don't mind the snow, in fact I love it, but the cold temps and blowing wind-- no thanks.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Collecting Data

Well, I've finally gotten a few things done around here!  The  BFL breeding groups have been broken up and the boys are back together.  Granite was kicking up his heels with the snow and cold temps this morning. He's top dog in the ram pen.

The biggest project I got done is the 2009 NA BFL Breeders Survey . This is the second year that I have collected data from North American Bluefaced Leicester breeders in an effort to determine production characteristics.  The idea sprung up on the BFL Friends list when several breeders were posting their lambing results in spring of 2008.  A small committee of new BFL breeders (Jody McLean, Linda Wendelboe and myself) developed a short questionnaire which was sent out the members of the Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America along with the Flock Book.  This year's survey was a little more involved than the first year because we included lambing data from crossing BFL sires on other breeds of ewes.  I think the results this year are very interesting and informative.  You can download results on my website, www.riveroakssheep.com  or click on the link above.


The other thing I finally finished was a basket I started way back in August of 2008.  It's been sitting around for over a year!  I can truthfully say that basket weaving is NOT for me. I never wanted to do it, but our art group was making them one day and I thought I might as well see what it was like. But I had to leave early that day and didn't finish the top edge.  It didn't take all that long to finish it up once I had it well soaked.  But still, I'll leave the basket weaving to others.

We got some snow overnight which reminded me that it's time to start thinking about Christmas. I finally dragged out the little artificial tree last night. I'll have to decorate it and the house in the coming days.



Shachah comes in for daily naps now.  However he's been taking longer and longer naps lately.  Last night with the blowing snow and dropping temps I didn't wake him to go back outside when I went to bed. Well, when Shachah wakes up and wants out, he wants out! Stan woke up when he heard all kinds of rustling and panting by the patio door in the kitchen.  As soon as Stan opened the door OUT went the BIG dog. Then Stan had to get his boots and coat on and open the gate so Shachah could join the ewe flock in the pole barn. 
I know, I'm such a sucker! I need to be firm and not let him in (the dog, not Stan!).  At the very least I need to make him go out before I go to bed . But with the upcoming below zero temps that will be hard, he's just so darn lovable. So far his arthritis doesn't appear to be acting up.  And it's amazing how little he eats.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Home from the Shepherd's Holiday

Whew! I spent Friday and Saturday at the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers annual Shepherd's Holiday. It was held in Alexandria, MN.  This was the first time I've attended the MLWP's annual event and I was pleasantly surprised at what a fun weekend it was. Terri Drimel and I went together (we volunteered to serve on the MLWP Board and were on the ballot - and yes, we got voted in).  Gail VonBargen rode up with a nice shepherd couple who live near her.  It was fun to talk sheep with them and meet new friends. 
The classes were very interesting. I learned new things about terminal sire selection, Scrapie transmission, Nor98, and wool characteristics/fiber production.

The food was great, especially the Greek Marinade Lamb Shanks served at the banquet -- absolutely delicious!  The live auction was fun on Friday night and at the luncheon Saturday we got to see the Make it with Wool entries. That was amazing -- from the youngest little seamstress to the oldest -- lots of really nice wool garments!

Another pleasant surprise came when Greyson's fleece sample (taken at the last rib, mid-side) came in 3rd in the finest fleece contest.  First place went to a merino who microned at 16.8, second place was 22.3 (not sure of the breed) and Greyson had an AFD of 22.7  (SD of 5.1, and CV of 22.6)..  I just wanted to find out a ball park figure on his numbers since he's the only Shetland ram I'm using for breeding this fall.

The conference ended Saturday afternoon with a farm tour of a commercial operation who had 1,000 ewes.  They lamb year round. Oh my gosh, they had a lot of sheep there! Seeing the facilities and hearing about the ewe and lamb rations, feeding systems, etc. was really interesting.  In one barn they were ultrasounding and sorting ewes from three different breeding groups. All of us got to take a good look at the lambs in utero. That was really cool.  Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera and do the roving reporter thing, but Terri did and she has posted photos on her Roundabout Acres blog.

Next on my agenda is to break up my breeding groups. It will be nice to have only two pens of sheep again, I just hope reuniting the rams goes well. Poor little Greyson is definitely the underdog, being only about 1/3 of the size of the other rams.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Almost Done...

I'm knitting TWO baby sweaters for this cute set of twin girls.  They belong to a gal I work with. They are about four months old already, so I've had plenty of time to get this project done.
Actually,one IS done, and the second will be done soon -- I hope.

I decided to use an acrylic yarn that would be easy care for a mother of five with a full time job. I found a huge skein of Rainbow Boucle yarn at JoAnne Fabrics last summer and quickly knit up the first sweater. 
That stuff wasn't the easiest to knit with, but it's so soft, it feels like a chenille bathrobe. It wasn't until just last week that I got up the gumption to start the second sweater.

Knitting the second went much faster than the first one.  All I have left to do is knit the sleeves and add the crochet trim and figure out a closure for each sweater.  I worry about using a button closure on a baby item, so maybe a snap would be better?

And I'm not sure about the sleeves.  Do they look like they will work, or did I go too narrow?  I adjusted the pattern to fit my gauge with the boucle yarn. 

The sweater is worked in the round up to the armholes and then the back and fronts are worked separately.  The shoulders are joined with a three needle bind off and the collar stitches are picked up and knit.  The sleeve stitches are picked up and the sleeves are worked in the round.  Because the boucle yarn is so soft I added a crochet trim to give it more structure.

I just hope these sweaters will fit them at some point, I haven't the foggiest notion of baby sizes any more.

Okay, now I've got to finish up the laundry and get packed for a trip to Alexandria tomorrow. I'm going to the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Annual Conference. I'm looking forward to seeing several of my shepherd friends and attending the sessions on sheep production and fiber.  I took a snippet of Greyson's fleece at the last rib this afternoon...I hope I got close enough to the skin, but it's hard with just a scissors. 

I'm hoping to have it micron tested with the AFD2000 at the conference.  His fleece feels very soft and I love the grey color.