Monday, June 28, 2010

Crock Pots and Cherries

I love cooking in the crock pot.  It's so easy and it makes the whole house smell good all day. I've got a home raised chicken in the crock pot right now. The aroma of basil and chicken makes me even hungrier. 

I bought a box with two old crock pots in it at the auction a couple weeks ago.  The orange one is the exact same model I received as a wedding gift 35 years ago.  Using it really brings back the memories of that first year learning to cook down in Pipestone, MN.  We rented an old farmstead and got a goat and I gained about 10 pounds.

I bought the old crock pots so that I could dye wool and make soap in them.  I haven't ever tried making the hot process crock pot soap, but I hope to try it soon.  The nice thing about hot process soap is that you can use it right away, it doesn't need to cure for 4 to 8 weeks.
I have been using the old crock pots for dyeing felted scarves and my Shetland Mule combed top.  It's so easy!  I just put warm water in, add a little citric acid and turn it on high.  Then I add the wool. After about 30-40 minutes I add the dye powder and poke it around a little. I leave it on high for about another 45 mintues and then remove it with tongs and let it cool before rinsing it out.  The water remaining in the crock pot is clear (the dye exhausts completely) and it's ready for the next batch of wool to go in to soak.  I've done two colors at the same time in the crock pot it's kind of small so you have to be careful not to stir too much.  These are just single color braids that I made the other day.

Our little cherry tree is laden with fruit this year - sorry for the blurry photo here.  I'm not sure when I should pick the cherries though.  The birds will be happy to do that for me if I wait too long.  Should I just pick the reddest ones? Or can I pick the orange ones and let them ripen indoors away from the birds?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Breeding to a Standard - is it really a good thing?

Did anyone watch the PBS documentary the other night on the state of pedigree dogs in the UK?

I did and I was disgusted at what the show ring and inbreeding have done to several breeds.  Most shocking to me was that the breeders are so caught up in the sanctity of breeding to the Standard that they don't realize the damage they are inflicting upon their animals in terms of health and future generations. 

The examples cited on the documentary of structural, facial and skull changes over the years were striking.  I was shocked at the footage of the German Shepherds in the show ring -- their back legs out of portion and misaligned, and a breeder saying what a perfect specimen in conformation to the standard the winning dog was.

When one Cavalier breeder tries to do something about a fatal hereditary condition, she was vilified by the rest of the breeders.  The frosting on the cake was when a dog afflicted by that same condition won top honors in a show.  Makes one wonder how these breeders could be so brainwashed that they think it's perfectly acceptable for a dog with a fatal hereditary condition to be allowed to compete and then go on to sire hundreds of puppies.  What were they thinking?

I have heard this documentary isn't real new, but it was new to me.  Here's a link to it if you're interested in checking it out:

In relation to Shetlands, arguing over fleece length and type is pretty mild stuff.  I'm in favor of maintaining as wide a genetic base as we can, but blindness in certain lines is a serious issue that really should be addressed.  Breeders shouldn't be in the dark when it comes to the genetics producing blind lambs (sorry for the pun there). 

On the Bluefaced Leicester front, there are accusations of crossbreeding in the purebred flock flying just as fast and furious as in the Shetland breed. 

And there seems to be no shortage of UK experts willing to tell us just how bad the North American Shetlands and the Bluefaced Leicester flocks are.  Maybe it's time we all take a step back and try to get a more objective view of what's right in front of our eyes -- real live sheep, with good points and bad points.  We want them to be useful specimens, not just show ring beauties.  (Although my little Landon is the exception of course!  LOL)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rambling Update

So many things have been going on here that I haven't even mentioned on the blog.  So here's a quick update.

First off, I think I'll name Lanora's ram Landon. I saw on the news this morning the player who scored the winning goal in the soccer game is named Landon.  I just think he's a gorgeous ram lamb.

I brought home three of our Ile de France sired market lambs yesterday.

 They are only 8-9 weeks old.  I think it's young to be weaning them, but LeeAnne has too many lambs for her resouces so I took the first three and will get the other three in a couple more weeks. The biggest weighed 65 lbs at 8 weeks.  I didn't get him, he went for a wedding this month.  The lamb in side view in the photos is a single out of a Shetland Mule, on the right is a twin  out of a Dorset/Ile de France ewe, and another one of those is in the back.

We're down to 4 hens now.  Only the wisest old girls are left - not the best egg layers, they all got killed by a predator in the 20-30 minutes before a nasty storm blew in last week. Only found one body, the rest vanished.  I'm thinking the mother fox brought her babies in for a hunting lesson.  They went right inside the chicken's little barn.  Ozzie was out in the pasture with me and Shachah was in the house at the time.  He (Shachah) had an open sore on his side and I was keeping indoors to prevent fly strike. Darn!
We still have an old Black Australorp, the two Salmon Faverolles and the Ameracauna.  We'll still get enough eggs for ourselves, but our egg sales will have to stop.  The good news is the feed bill will be reduced too.

Our pond is getting fuller with all the rain this summer. I'm hoping that next spring it will be full due to the snow melt.  The bad news on all this rain is that the farmers don't have any dry days to cut and harvest hay.  Also, the nutritional quality of this fast growing hay isn't as good as hay grown in a year with normal rainfall.  I'll have to keep that in mind when figuring our feeding plans for next winter.  A couple years ago we had the same situation and my girls were frighteningly thin at shearing.
I went to great pains to purchase day old goslings for the broody Shetland geese.  (Okay, it wasn't that bad, just a lot of driving around to find some and then waiting around the auction for hours until they came up for bid.) I bought 6 of them.  In restrospect, I should have introduced them in the evening, but usually geese are such natural parents they will steal young goslings from me.
Well that wasn't the case with the Shetlands.  They hissed at the babies, but didn't attack them.  I locked the two broodies and the babies in the nest and took away the infertile eggs they had been setting on.  I tucked as many babies as I could under one broody and I left them for 2 hours in the dark.  When I came back, all the goslings were huddled as far away from the geese as they could get.  And the geese were still hissing at them.  So now I had myself 6 Brown Chinese goslings to raise up too.  I kept them for a week and managed to sell them at the Pine City Flea Market.  What a relief that was! 
The good news about this is that they are back to their more friendly selves now that they don't have eggs.  They are kind of funny, being so inquisitive at every little thing and they still like to follow me around.

There's lots more to talk about but it's sunny outside today and I've got to hoe and mulch my gardens!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fleece Samples Ready to Go

This is a quick post from my old computer.
I scanned my fleece samples before I send them out for micron testing. I got a surprise check in the mail the other day which was prize money for winning 3rd place in the finest fleece contest with Greyson's sample last December. I didn't realize the contest included prize money!  The check will help with the cost of testing this year, so now I've just got to get my samples sent in.

Sorry you can't see the whole staples and how crimpy or wavy they are due to my packaging, but you can get an idea of the length of my flock's wool.  You can click on the photos to biggify.

My blacks are mostly quite short and crimpy.  They are all heavy AI lines.  In fact, all my sheep have AI influence.  Frieda is the shortest stapled and Lana's pretty short too, but I love those girls anyway.  Cleo's fleece is a dream!  Eva is 3/4 Shetland and 1/4 BFL, her fleece is wonderful.

These are my more brown toned samples, except Camille and Greyson grey, not musket. They are twins out of Cordelia. And Peppy (Ile de France/Dorset) is white.

And these are the BFL fleece samples.  Socks is our Shetland Mule wether. I sold his fleece this year.  I never sell my fleeces directly to handspinners due to my worries about VM.  I always wash and process them into roving or top and sell that.  I love washing fleeces.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A New Tent!

Ask and ye shall receive!  Once I decided I absolutely had to have a new tent I started researching the various brands and their pricing. Since I have quit my day job, it's hard to shell out almost $1,000 for a good quality tent even if it is necessary. 
So last week I typed in "canopy" on Craigslist and low and behold, there was a used LightDome available in down in Redwing, MN!  That's 118 miles away, but I talked Stan into going down there with me and we picked it up Saturday morning.  It was a beautiful drive along the river seeing the bluffs and all the spring colors.  The gal who was selling the tent  for her artist dad had a candy store in town.  So we bought some of her artisan candy too.  Yumm!

We set up the tent on Sunday morning and a few hours later we had a good heavy rain.  No leaking!  I love how tall it is in the center compared to the EZUp and I love that every sidewall has a zippered center.  The zippers are much heavier weight than the ones on the EZUp.  Yes, the crazysheeplady was right, it's going to take two people to get it set up.  Like her, I may keep the EZUp for days when rain protection isn't a necessity.

I was spending money like a drunken sailor last week.  I couldn't resist the combination of spring colors in this hanging basket. I should have never walked into that little greenhouse in the parking lot of the grocery store. All I needed was milk and bread!

The prices really came down out on the hay now that people are haying again.  So I bought 70 small square bales last week at the auction. Stan always gets mad when I buy hay at the auction. He works on Wednesdays and isn't available to help me with it. We only live 4 miles away, so I figure I can just take my time and make trips with 25 bales at a time in the back of his pick up. But men always seem to think they have to go so fast with loading and stacking hay. On his lunch break he helped me to unload my first load. Then he hooked up the trailer and we headed back for the rest of it. He helped to load it all up before going back to work.  I have to admit, I was glad for the help, but I could have done it myself.  It just would have taken me a lot longer. :-)

Our front hayfield is now planted in corn. We have been getting plenty of rain the past few weeks and it's growing well.  I'm looking forward to getting our back hayfield harvested in a couple weeks.  Then I shouldn't have to buy more hay for this year.  But if I can get a good deal on orchard grass or alfalfa bales, I'll buy them and save them for next year's lambing.

It's another rainy day here and I plan to get some felting done.  And maybe some dyeing too.

Getting ready for Christmas Markets!

  I'll be doing two Christmas markets this year. The first one is at Sapsucker Farms in Brook Park, MN Nov. 18-19th. And the second one ...