Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breeding Time

Sushi and Tsunami sport their green butts
Since last post the rains have come along with some warmth and sun.  Enough to green up the pastures a bit and give the sheep something to forage.  We just completed our breeding (that must sound really weird to those not accustomed to "farm talk") and the ram and ewe groups are now settled into the long wait until lambs come.  That will be the last couple weeks of March. 

We bred 8 ewes, 6 Shetlands and the 2 Gotland girls.  The Gotties got to go on a little road trip down to Ronan Country Fibers near Grants Pass to meet a nice man.  I'm not sure they liked it all that much but they did come back with nice green bottoms!  (for those of you who wonder what that means....the ram is painted on the chest before breeding, when he mounts the ewe it leaves a nice mark so we know whether they have bred or not.  Ewes conveniently do not breed unless they are cycling). 





Strudel, Rachel and Rhapsodie




Jasper and Dover were the lucky Shetland boys this year.  Jasper takes his job very seriously and works his girls until they finally give in.  Here are his girls wondering why I put them in this pen with this strange guy with horns that keep sticking out his tongue at them.  "Would you please get us out of here, now!"



Jasper at work


Dover here chose to run his poor girls until they were completely out of breath.  After a couple hours they finally settled down and ate a nice meal together.  Dover is only a lamb but obviously didn't need any training to know what he was suppose to do.  We are hoping to getting some little gulmoget babies out of him with his soft, fine, lovely moorit color.





And now the wait begins!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dry as a Bone

.....or so the saying goes.  Unfortunately here in the Willamette valley we are living it.  Beautiful clear blue skies day in and day out.  Record dry spell here for this time of year.  True Oregonians like myself are getting nervous.  I don't think I can ever remember a time I had to keep watering plants into October.  People I work with, those "townie" people, seem to love it and feel it is just fine if the sun keeps shining until Christmas.  I think (theory not tested) that those of us that are closer to the land can see this perpetual sunshine is a real problem.  We can't water our pastures like townies can  water their lawns.  Townies see green in town where there is "plenty" of water.   Us hic folk just see brown.  And it is continuing to wear on me......and the sheep.  Note the browns in the pictures below;  not one blade of green grass left in our pastures.  Time to do a serious rain dance!


All the sheeps marching in for dinner




Rachel the difficult one to photograph as she wants no distance between her and the camera.  She is on our breeding list for this year.
                                               Natasha wondering if anyone will follow her out to eat brown grass and dirt!  Natasha is another on our breeding list.














                                                                            Julia looking pretty from far away;  what Julia is good  at!





Monday, September 24, 2012

Ram Updates

We have succeeded finally in decreasing our ram flock and making life easy on ourselves.  Not that having 6 rams was a problem but it had potential to be one.  Seems to me the more rams you have the more potential problems you have.  Don't get me wrong, I love our boys.  We have been blessed with some sweet personalities and for the last few years they have all gotten along.  Except for a "break out" during breeding season about 4 years ago it has been peaceful over in the ram paddock.  But having 6 rams to breed 3-5 ewes seemed like overkill.  We were very fortunate to find great homes for the ones we wanted to sell; they deserved it.  So yes, now down to four.

I thought it was time to get some updated pictures of them so here is my attempt.  Attempt, I say as they did not cooperate.  Somehow the camera to them meant "come".  So you see I had challenges and you can see why I didn't get any great side shots.  Also you can see that I don't have a nice, green grassy backdrop.  We are still waiting for rain here in Oregon.  Dry as a bone.


McTavish Jasper
Jasper is the oldest of the bunch and he is in charge although he is a very mellow leader.  At six he is still soft as ever and a real gentleman.


McTavish Schroeder
 Schroeder is the ham of the group.  I could not get a good picture of him because he wanted to be right next to me, wanting pets, wagging his tail.  He is a 2 year old and I think his fleece is finally developed into what it will be.  He seems to get his fine, dual coat type fleece from his dad McMeadow Rowan   (micron count of 23 with the undercoat peaking at about 18!) and his lovely steel grey color for his mom (McTavish Shawn who inherited a super silky fleece from Mtn Niche Aberdeen, her dad). 
McTavish Schroeder




















McTavish Stetson

Next one in line is Stetson.  He is a well behaved yearling with great structure, also a real sweetie.  He has a more primitive type fleece but the outer coat seems very soft so I think the coat is over all more even in fiber diameter.  He is black down deep but, as his mom is a moorit, he should produce some brown babes as well.  Oh and his sister, Miso, won Reserve Champion at the Black Sheep Gathering this year.   Stetson might have done better if he didn't have such a poor hair stylist (ok we had a few problems : )  )

McMeadow Dover
Dover

Meet Dover the youngster of the bunch.  Just a lamb but a beauty.  His fleece is fine, hence the vegi matter that sticks to it! He is a gulmoget out of a line of them from Sheep Ridge.  We hope to breed him this year and have just the gal.  Hope for some little gullies this year at McTavish Farm. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Apples Not Oranges



 
Seems like every summer season there are lots of something and not so much of other things.  This year is no different.  Haven't had but a handful of tomatoes and peppers seem scarce.  Not even very many beans.  But there are lots and lots of apples.  All our old and young trees alike are loaded with them.  I did my best to thin, but seems I didn't do enough (it is so hard kill those little baby apples!). And I hate to see them go to waste.   So far I have canned about 24 quarts of applesauce and have dried up several containers of them as well.  Not sure what I will do with it all but at least I feel good about not wasting all those apples. 

The sheep are very happy about all the apples.  Apples are like candy to sheep.  They all have special ways of eating them too.  Some find it preferable to smash them first with their heads, I guess so they are easier to eat ( makes for a nice, sticky hairdo too). Others run around and take one bite off of each one I throw out, that way no one else will want them (who want sheep germs!) and they get to have them all (my little piggy sheep).  Yes the sheep will be sad when the apples are all gone.

Grapes are ripening, great for juice!


Hops are drying up and ready for harvest

morning sunrise with rare clouds



Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Time and the Living is Easy.........

 ....well maybe if you are a sheep!  We here semi farm people don't necessarily feel summer is all that easy.  So much to do.  All one needs to do is step outside and realize there is a wealth of things to do around here.  For one, we still have lots and lots of wood to move and split.  Remember our winter post with all the trees we had come down?  News is.... we are still working on them!   From the pictures you can see we have made progress but still plenty more to go.  


We have made some significant progress on the big tree at the lower end of our pasture.  See for yourself.  To finish it though, we will need someone with a very big chain saw to do the finally cutting on the trunk of that baby.  We'll also need some ladders to get up to cut the side branches.  And again, more firewood to haul!


      If one is bored with doing wood there are weeds to pull, a house to paint, fences to fix, a garden shed to finish and then there are the gourmet meals to be made from all the fresh vegetables from the garden.  Never a dull moment.  One definitely longs for cold rainy winter days where you are stuck inside with only spinning and knitting to do.  Oh don't I wish!


Bored sheep escaping the summer sun
a dead llama embracing it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Black Sheep Gathering 2012


 Another Black Sheep Gathering has come and gone.  This time it went by way too fast.  It was very busy for us showing sheep, talking about spinnning wheels, talking about sheep interspersed with a bit of spinning.  All the things I love!  This year was nice and cool; I think I wore a wool sweater the entire time.  This is odd as it has been 100 degrees a few years back.  Our small string of 9 sheep did well in their respective classes.  No big ribbons but lots of 3-6 place ribbons.   The yearling ram category was the only class we did not ribbon in.  That was probably due to the fact that  "Stetson", our ONE yearling ram, began shedding a about a month ago and I finally got around to rooing him the day before the show.  He looked like one big black fuzzball!  Hardly the fleece the judge was looking for.  His sister "Miso" (who now lives with Susie Sizemore of Newberg) got reserve champion so he has it in his blood!  Oh well.  Our biggest accomplishment was Rikki's sister, Tsunami, a Gotland, placing 3rd in the yearling ewe class against other big breeds beautiful sheep.



 Here I am saying goodbye to our beloved Rikki.  She left early on Sunday to begin the long journey to her new home in Indiana.  I admit, I was crying but it helps me to know she is now in a very good, loving home who appreciates her very quirky personality and lovely fleece.  Bye bye Rikki!






 Chicken Duck.....

 .....The latest on the Chicken duckling (or is that the Duck chickling?  Tom calls it the "chuckling").  Mama chicken and baby duckling are still quite bonded despite the disparity in size....and looks.









Baby still needs warming occasionally but it's very hard to cover all the parts!   We may have to consult an animal psychologist on this one to sort out this bad case of species confusion.



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rikki has a Party!

Rikki and Sushi in the pen

 It's always hard for us to sell a sheep.  Not really difficult in the normal sense, finding a buyer, coming up with a price, collecting the money.....but when it comes to seeing them leave the farm;  that is the difficult part.  We get attached.  One thing that does make it is easier is knowing they are going to a good home.
Well Ms. Rikki will be doing just that (she's going to be a Hoosier!).  Her date of departure is coming soon.

On hearing this news my co-workers were quite upset. They had heard the stories of Rikki, the diapers, the bottle, her little bed next to ours. They couldn't believe I would let her go.  At least without a PARTY!

So we had a party, a sheep going away type party.  I set up a pen in the backyard and brought Rikki and her sis Sushi to occupy it.  People could pet them, and feed them and give them sips of beer (turns out Sushi is quite the lush!).  And of course there was cake!


 
Trying a little potato salad

 
Oh my Sushi does like beer! 



The cake was good!  Rikki did NOT get cake.


Other news from the farm.....

MY CHICKEN HATCHED OUT A DUCK....

How does that happen?  About a month ago I place two duck eggs under one of our broody banty hens and guess what!

Mom doesn't seem to notice her baby has webbed feet but she is a bit concerned about this obsession with water.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Changing Faces

This time of year I seem to notice a dramatic change in coloring of some of the sheep's faces around the farm.  Their faces change color throughout the year but seems more dramatic this time of year.   I snapped a few shots and then went to the archive to compare.  Here are a couple examples so you can see I am not loosing my mind!




This is Jasper, picture was taken in the fall, sort of a boring black face.

This is Jasper this spring, no it is not make-up or war paint.

Here is Strudel after lambing last year

This is Strudel today, makes her nose look a bit big, don't ya think?



So you can see how dramatic the coloring changes are, you might wonder how I keep everyone straight!

Just for fun I added this photo I recently took of a few of the boys.  You can see the changes in growth of horns as the rams age.  The youngest here is a yearling, the boy below is a two year old and on the top is Apollo at age 6.  This was taken a few weeks ago.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Additions (or is it editions?) to the Flock

Lambing this year was very much abbreviated for us compared to previous years.  Last year we had 16 lambs, this year 5!  They are now all safely running around on the ground.  What we lack in numbers we make up with personality.  Each lamb is getting lots of attention so are very friendly.  The boys are still expected to be gentlemen, however!
A brief chronlogy of last week.  First came Katrina's lambs.  She is absolutely the best mother.  She birthed with no fanfare promptly on day 147.  Note day!  That would be the civilized hour of 11 am.  I was not yet predicting lambs and was at work.  But Tom handled things very professionally.  Katrina really did it all, small babies, right on time, and a girl and a boy.  And her ewe lamb even smiles!

Katrina and her girl Fiera


Next in line was Nell.  A first timer with her lovely yuglet spots.  Like Katrina, she was bred to our Apollo, with his dense, fine fleece.  I was hoping for spots and got them.  Not sure they will stick around but maybe if they are bred to the right sheep in the future we will get spots that stick.  Even if they do fade away the fleeces on her lambs should be quite dense and soft.  Yummy!  Oh, Nell had a boy and a girl.

Look at the Stance on Nell's boy!


Shebaa, the last to lamb.  Five whole days after Katrina.  A first timer with an electrifying fleece with all it's luster, had a nice little boy.   It took her some time just figuring out what was happening to her.  I would go out to check and could peek through the window to see she was pushing.  Then I would quietly enter the barn and she would quickly stand up and just stare at me with her big eyes.  "Lamb, what lamb?  Did you think I was having a lamb?  Oh no not me!"  So if she was ever going to push out the lamb I would have to leave and watch from far away.  But she finally succeeded and he was full of vigor;  no help needed for him to find the teat!  He's a looker too.
Mr Austin


So now back to normal.  Caught up on sleep and all is good (well except for the weather!).  Now the lamb races  begin!



Saturday, March 17, 2012

For the Love of Fleece...

Sushi's fleece
That is it!  It is why I do this crazy thing of raising sheep!  I love fleece!  There is something special about being in the barn with all those warm little sheep bodies all sporting a different but yummy little coat.  So it stands to reason that my very favorite time of year is shearing, it maybe even surpasses lambing.  This year we were quite fortunate to have an old friend come out of hibernation a.k.a. retirement and shear 20 of our sheep (she shall remain nameless here for fear of being bombarded by shearing requests).  But anyway we can save our backs for another year.  So now the sheep are all sheared and with amazing networking thanks to McTavish Wheelworks and the wonderful spinners on Tom's wheel list, we are sold out of fleeces!  Ok I do have a few bits and pieces of fleeces in my own stash but a women needs to spin to stay sane, right?  But yes all our fleeces are sold for this year and we even have a few dibs on fleeces for next year!  I guess this spinning thing is really catching on.  Now on to selling sheep.

Julia not sure about this shearing thing

Tossing fleece


I waited a few weeks after shearing the main bunch to shear Rikki (ok she gets mentioned her AGAIN, her head is getting a bit big for her britches) and her sister Sushi.  I was hoping their fleeces would grow a bit as I did shear them in the Fall.  I do love the Shetland fleece, but I must say this Gotland fiber is quite grand!  Just amazing luster (see the picture above). I am looking forward to finally finishing the yarn for my brothers vest made with Rikki (didn't quite have enough).  Check out how wonderful she looks with her next to the skin haircut.  Spots and patterns with the crimp are amazing. 

Remember Rikki?  She's now a year old.


Fun bunch of spots on this girl.





More to come....lambing is soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sheep Are Mean

We got a new sheep.  I know, we really didn't need another sheep but this turned out to be a nice trade for us.  This is how it happened.  I was helping at a friend's shearing;  I was doing the skirting of fleeces for her, my favorite job.  I complemented her on a particularly fleece I had just skirted; a very fine fleece with lovely tiny crimp toward the neck and shoulder and a beautiful dark, dark brown color. She reported that she hated this sheep and was thinking of doing her in.  This was too nice a fleece, I just could not see letting this poor critter go, no matter how "bad" the sheep was.  Apparently she had been for sale but nobody had acted on it.  So to prevent loosing this wonderfully fleeced girl we worked out a nice deal, a sheep trade, as she had met a sheep she liked on our farm.  What a deal, and really no net increase in sheep numbers for us;  totally justified.


Meet Lietzel


So this little gal is a yearling and her name is Lietzel (Valkyries Lietzel).  We brought her home yesterday and introduced her to little Hailey, a Shetland of the same age.   They were good together for a bit but then Hailey just couldn't help herself and had to do some head butts with her.  Lietzel held her own though.  So that after about an hour, I released her and Hailey so they could go out with all the rest to the pasture and graze in the sun.  Lietzel then proceeded to check out her new surroundings, the barn, the pasture, the grass, the fences, the other sheep.  She ran around checking out each sheep and then yelling.  It was as if she did not recognize anyone!  Where were all her old buddies?  They were all a bunch of strangers to her.  I felt a bit sorry for her so talked to her throughout the day.  By evening I spotted her introducing herself to the rooster.  She took a couple happy little "hoppers" , as I call them, toward the rooster and chased him away.  It wasn't all bad for her.



Lietzel wants her old friends back

 This morning though, the others would not let her eat.  Of course after getting pummeled in the side and rear a few times over the past 24 hours, she is a bit hesitant and is acting very timid.  That does not help in the sheep world.  Act like that and you are sure to get beat on.  They go after the weak, just like kids.  An opportunity to look good, I guess.  Sheep can be so mean.  Poor Leitzel, I am sure after a few days she will adjust.  Just the new kid on the block.





Ninki and Aurora checking out this new girl.

Friday, January 27, 2012

When a tree falls in the forest...


...does anybody hear?  Apparently not.  This huge old gal fell down last weekend; just pulled up from the roots.  It happened down in our lower pasture.  It was just over the fence in our neighbors back yard and it crashed down on our fence and laid down across our pasture.  None of the neighbors close by heard it fall.  Amazing.   I estimate it to be about 6 feet around and 100 feet tall, maybe 300 years old.  It is a black oak tree.  We are in contact with Urban Lumber Co and hope they can somehow cart it out when it dries out in the summer and then use the trunk for something special.  I would guess it is beautiful wood.  Meanwhile we have lots of work cutting up firewood and clearing the brush (not to mention fixing our fence).  Lots of warmth there.  Our neighbors' old handyman says wood warms you 3 times, once when you cut it up, once when you split it and a third time when you burn it. 
I don't think our chainsaw can get through this


lots of firewood here
you can see our smashed fence
         If we don't get it out I suppose it will be a great play structure for the sheep!