Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quick post - busy working on the Shepherd's Harvest Booklet

Just a quick post as I take a break from doing the Shepherd's Harvest booklet. 

I got my Bluefaced Leicester yarn back from the processor already.  I love it!  I only had three pounds of roving spun, but I'm thinking I will send 4 pounds of my Shetland/Bluefaced Leicester top to be spun into yarn too.  I had a little unexhausted dye left in the crockpot, so I dyed 4 oz. of the BFL yarn Peacock Blue.  I'm thinking I may use it to quickly make another Tomten baby jacket according to EZ's directions. 

I'm having reservations about the one I knitted in the self-striping Bernat baby yarn using stockinette stitch.  I think there was a reason that Elizabeth Zimmermann used garter stitch, especially in the sleeves.  I've pinned in the zipper, now I just need to stitich it in place.
Rocky is sacked out just behind my computer chair, he's dead to the world. But it's time to go do chores and you can bet he'll spring into action when I get my boots on.
The BFL lambs are already a week old and growing like weeds.  I banded the tails of the youngest four yesterday.  I didn't want to do it sooner when the temps were so cold at night. I figured they had enough stress with that.  You can see by the above photo that they've all adjusted just fine.

Now that things are warming up again, life is much easier.  We got the van out of the mud and snow yesterday.  Yay!  Thanks to our neighbors for their help and to our son Matt who was in a hurry to get to work in the cities.  Sorry about all that mud on your jeans Matt.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rocky, formerly The New Pup

Thanks to everyone for all the name suggestions for our new puppy. Stan decided to call him Rocky because when he first went to look at the pups, this one was batting rocks around. 

We're finding that Rocky is pretty smart.  He wasn't housetrained in the least when we got him, but it only took two days of training before he caught on. Even during the nasty weather we've just gone through, he's been vigilant about doing his business outside. Okay, in the worst of it he decided the deck was far enough, but I am very pleased about not having to clean up any more messes in the house.

Stan is really happy with how well Rocky retrieves.  He uses a bird wing for this, which makes me nervous about the chickens' future safety. So far Rocky's been okay with the chickens, but I am happy he's learning to respond to a sharp "No!"   The other day he barged confidently into the goose pen.  I called him out of there as fast as I could, those ganders could really hurt him.  And then he came into the ram shelter and jumped a panel so he was right in with the boys.  Harwell chased him around for a while before I could get him back to safety.

The cats are getting used to him.  At least they don't hide anymore.  He will bark at them and they growl at him.  Hopefully it won't be too much longer before they get along.

He's a real chewer too, he loves the sheepskin in Ozzie's kennel - another warning sign? I took it away and give him an old rag rug.  I found my boot in his kennel the other morning and this morning he had Stan's favorite cap.  Life with a puppy - how long does last?  Wish me luck. 

2011 BFL Lamb Crop so far

After 3 years of my Bluefaced Leicester ewes just having single lambs, this year we got three sets of twins.  All were born without difficulty and the moms were attentive right from the start. The ram lambs were a little slow to figure out nursing, but they did, and now life is easy again.

We got a set of natural colored ewe lambs and a set of white ewe lambs and a set of white ram lambs. We still have one natural colored BFL yearling ewe left to lamb in April, so the fun isn't quite over yet. :-)  Also have one 3 yr old natural colored BFL ewe that looks like she's open, but I'll wait until summer to see if she lambs late.

I'm very pleased with Ward Harwell's performance as the BFL flock sire this year.  I hope all the lambs inherit his fine fluffy fleece.

We've had some nasty weather lately.  The wind was awful on Tuesday and my pole barn's slider is frozen in place (see it in the photo above).  I decided to block it with some small squares before the snow hit.  Stan, bless his heart, tried to bring the bales over in back of the van and it just sunk down into the soaked ground - darn!  The bales really helped to block the wind and a lot of the snow, but Wednesday morning snow covered the hay feeder and even the big round bales I have stored 20' inside the building.
Here's the van this morning.  Hopefully with the low temps we had last night the ground will be hard enough to get it out soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lanora's Twins

I checked the barn by flashlight early this morning and Lanora was standing up while everyone else was lying down, but other than that all seemed well. Went back out around 9 a.m. and found her with two white ram lambs.

The thing about BFLs is that the lambs are not real bright as compared to Shetland lambs.  These boys are STILL having trouble connecting with the milk counter at 4 p.m.  The video clip above shows how close they come without actually hooking up.  Hopefully they will figure it out soon! I can't stand to watch.  They don't want to be helped either. I milked out Lanora and gave them each a bottle of her colostrum and some powdered colostrum supplement to keep them going until they figure things out.
Leora will be next.  She was taking a lot of interest in the older lambs this morning after her mom delivered the twins.  We have a winter storm warning starting in the morning, I wonder if that will bring on labor for her. She's a first time mom.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scarf Class and Shearing

It's been a busy few days lately.  Last night's scarf class at Pine Center for the Arts was a lot of fun.

It always amazes me the way people choose colors and embellishments.  I marvel at their choices and the resulting scarves.  I know they must think I'm nuts, but I do get pretty excited about fiber.

We had nine students and only 5 tables, so they worked two to a table.  We used silk gauze and various wools blended with tencel and silk and then embellished with silk, wool locks and some brought yarns from home.
None of them had ever felted before, except for an art club friend of mine who took the class before and came back with two friends.  No one had problems and all their scarves turned out beautifully.  Here's a shot of Leslie's scarf before fulling.  
I think most of the students were happy with their scarves - I know I was thrilled with them.  I'm sorry I didn't get photos of all the students' work. When I left the building, moon was bright and the art center windows were totally fogged up from all the physical effort and the hot soapy water.  :-)

Then I got up bright and early this morning to set up the barn for shearing.  Jim Peterson arrived  right on time at 8:30.  He didn't take long to get set up. He sheared our 16 sheep plus a Shetland Mule ewe that we gave to our old neighbors a couple years ago.  Her fleece is really nice and I get to keep it.  The weather was great for shearing -- our highs will be close to 50 the next two days.  Just perfect!
  
Four of my five Bluefaced Leicester ewes were bred - including Rhisa the natural colored yearling.  Her three year old full sister Rhaya did not take again this year.  I'm afraid she will be moving on...
Hansel covered 5 of his 6 ewes, only the little moorit didn't take.  I've been wondering what Hansel's fleece was like under the coat he's been wearing.  And it's a lovely grey!  He's registered as a grey gulmoget and that seems to be right - unless one would call him emsket?  There was a spongy layer of lighter coloring, you can see some of it in the photo above.  But he is still grey on his saddle and according to his pedigree he can't be Ag.  It's going to be so exciting to see what color his lambs are.  He sired a set of twins born at Meghan's farm, one mioget and one emsket. 

Yearling granddaughter of Bramble Hetty looks just like her.

 Hattie's 2010 Ag grey lamb, that we called Pepper, has a lovely light grey fleece. She looks so much like her grandmother (Bramble Hetty) that I decided to change her name to Heddy.  She's bagging up along with Darla, shown below next to her twin sister Ginger.  Ginger and Heddy were coated too, so now I have sheep laundry to do.  I'm looking forward to skirting their fleeces. 



The Shetlands are due to start lambing in early April.  Rhisa is due in late April, or early May (if Pokey is the sire).  I don't know when the two white adult BFL ewes are due, their bags look like it could be any time now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The New Pup

Well, here he is.  We're still thinking of a name for him.  He's eleven weeks old and has some big paws, wide chest and head.  He was not happy in his dog crate last night.  After listening to the whining and yipping and putting him out in the garage, we found he was much happier (and quieter) sleeping on the floor next to Stan.  Ozzie is letting him know the boundaries.  And I have a new companion under foot constantly. The cats have not come out of hiding yet.  He was smart enough to stay away from the geese this morning too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My days will be getting busier


Check out the fat tummy on Hattie's ram lamb
If lambing and preparing for my slightly overbooked felt scarf class on Friday night, followed by shearing bright and early on Saturday morning wasn't enough, my husband has decided that NOW is the time to buy a new puppy.  A hunting dog puppy.  A yellow lab, a male.  He's on his way to pick it up right now.

He wasn't crazy about getting Ozzie, our Australian Shepherd seven years ago, and he was hesitant to bring home the big old lovable Great Pyrennees/Akbash guard dog in October 2009, but he didn't stand in my way.  So I am not going to stand in his way with this puppy.  But something tells me that I will be the one taking care of this new hunting dog.  Oh well, we'll get through it and Ozzie will be happy to have a friend again.

My table is piled with wool and silk I dyed yesterday. I want to make a few sample scarves for the class and I'm very anxious to make some felt birdhouses.  But I don't seem to get much done when I'm checking  the windows and the barn cam frequently for ewes in labor, and it is an absolutely glorious day outside!  The mother hen and her chicks are enjoying being outside in the sun.

Hattie delivered twin BFL-sired ram lambs in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  I went out with a flashlight before dawn to find one of them frozen solid in the ice just outside of the hoop house.  The other was up and nursing.  He's a little chunk!  We've only lost one other lamb at birth before and it was SO sad to find this one. Hattie licked him off very well, but he must have gotten too chilled out in the wind (with temps around 15F) to get up out of the puddle of birthing fluids.  Life goes on and I'm making sure the two BFLs who are due anytime stay locked inside at night now -- even though the weather is much nicer.

And the lamb races have officially begun!  Rhyn's twins and Hattie's ram lamb run in and out of the pole barn while the ewes are eating.  Bouncing baby lambs surely do lift the spirit!  Watch for puppy photos in the days to come.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rhyn's Twins

Rhyn's twin ewe lambs at 24 hours old. What a difference a day makes!

Here they are at birth last night.
I really lucked out with the temperature.  It was 31 degrees (above zero) when they were born and then the overnight low was 25 degrees.  So no heat lamps needed overnight. I did have one on during the lambing though. 

Rhyn did a super job.  Unlike her past three deliveries, she let the babies nurse right away. And they latched on quickly. For now I'm calling them Big Rita and Little Rita, reminiscent of two Ritas in our church when I was growing up.  They were sister-in-laws, the tall one was called Big Rita and the shorter one Little Rita.  Gosh, wouldn't it be awful to be known as Big (insert your name here)?  But the names seemed to fit these two since I always use R names with Rhyn's lambs.  If I offer them sale after weaning (I have enough natural colored BFL ewes) the buyers can choose proper names.
Next up is Hattie, my heart just goes out to the poor old girl who is carrying Shetland Mule lambs. She's been laying around a lot lately and her 2010 ewe lamb is always at her side. She's given me twin ewe lambs two years in a row, so I'm expecting ram lambs from her this year.  And I'd be happy with white ones.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Yikes!

My apologies to all the non-sheep folks out there, but this photo shows what's got me worried these days...

This is Rhyn, I had her as being due on March 10th (147 days after seeing her get bred).  But now I checked my little lambing calculator book and it says she'd be due on the 8th.  The good news is temps should be above zero next week and I'm not worried about the snowstorm in the forecast, we have plenty of shelter from the snow.

Rhyn has a history of not wanting her babies to nurse for the first 12 hours or so after lambing.  Last year the combination of a reluctant ewe and a lamb who stubbornly refused to be hooked up to the faucet had me totally exasperated.  But once she's ready and baby figures things out, Rhyn is an excellent mother and I forget about all the hassle she causes me.  This year I might just resign myself to supplementing the lamb(s) until she's ready to let them nurse.  But this is the biggest bag I've seen on her yet, so she may not be so reluctant this year.

On a lighter note, my federal taxes are filed now.  Yay! The kitchen table is finally cleared and I can finish framing my pasture series pieces. 

Next week I start in on the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep & Wool Festival booklet. Mark your calendars for May 7-8 and plan to attend the festival if you're in the area!  I'll have a booth there -- hopefully my Shetlands will be done lambing by then. :-)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Something New has arrived!

The Laundry Alternative Spin Dryer I ordered from Dharma last November finally arrived yesterday.

It's bigger than I remembered (I got to use one at the Midwest Felting Symposium).  My hands get sore wringing the water out of my felting projects, this will help.  It's amazing how much water they can get out in just a few minutes.  I can't wait to use it when I get done with all the paperwork projects that have kept me so busy lately.
I did mange to find some time to drumcard a lot of wool last week as I was sorting through all my washed fleeces to be shipped out for processing. I sent 25 lbs of washed wool to Zeilingers for combed top and batts.  I also decided to have some BFL roving spun into yarn at Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Mill in Hastings MN.  I had to wash it first to get the carding oils out.  Washing roving and combed top was easier than I thought it would be --  I'm happy to report I didn't felt it. :-)
The white skein the photo is some BFL/Shetland wool blended with nylon for sock yarn. It was good to spend a little time spinning again. I've got 3 more ounces to spin up and then I can knit some socks! The batt is BFL/Shetland blended with Tussah silk.   That will be used for felting.
Here's a shot of Ozzie from last week.  He's always a step ahead of me. It's nice to have a companion when I do my chores.
The mother hen has turned into a barracuda protecting her chicks!  But it's so cute to watch her cluck when I bring out treats.  The chicks love bread crumbs and bits of apple.  They are already three weeks old and getting beautiful buff feathers (this photo is from last week).  I'm keeping a heat lamp on at all times, but their water still freezes. I can't wait for spring to come!