Monday, November 4, 2013

Never Underestimate a Sheep

A couple of hours before feeding time, I went outside briefly.  The sheep moved together, waiting for the hay to arrive. I told them it was too early to feed them and went back into the house.

Through a window, I saw Minerva take a few steps forward, away from the other sheep. Laughing, I thought, "Wow, a spokes-sheep." And, next moment, looking straight at the door, she baa-ed.

I better watch what I think. Never underestimate a sheep.

Minerva

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dinnertime

Dierdre and I just fed the sheep. When we went out, they were on the far end of the property. I wanted each of them to have an equal chance at the hay, so I called them. They studiously ignored me.

Then Dierdre gave two sharp barks. Their heads shot up, and they started running towards us. I should have asked Dierdre to handle things to begin with.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Let's see if Miss Kitty laid any eggs."

Believe it or not, the title of this post, what Kenneth said to his sister Violet, really does make sense.

Their parents, my friends, helped me shear one and 3/4 sheep on Sunday. (That's a tale for another time.) Anyway, while we were shearing, my lone surviving hen (see the post from 8/12/13 for that story) decided to perch on the open window sill of the chicken coop.

Violet quietly approached her and started stroking her feathers. The hen stayed put. Violet petted her some more. The hen seemed to really enjoy it. She remained sitting, facing into the chicken coop, with her tail to the world -- just like a cat wanting its rear end petted, according to Violet and Kenneth.

They asked what the hen was called. I said I hadn't named this bunch as they all looked pretty much the same, and I couldn't really tell them apart. However, now that only one chick remained, we decided it was fitting for her to have a name. So the kids dubbed her "Miss Kitty," since she wanted to be petted just like a cat.

"Let's see if Miss Kitty laid any eggs." Kenneth and Violet hurried into the barn and scrambled up a low partition to reach the rafters where Miss Kitty roosts. Now, you must understand that this hen has an avian form of OCD, what I call OED, Obsessive Egg Disorder. She insists on trying to hatch her eggs, despite the absence of a rooster.

When she indulged her obsession in the laying box, I was able to remove the eggs daily. Since she started laying them in the rafters of the barn, I've been remiss about collecting them. The kids discovered 13 eggs up there. Kenneth tested them and found, unfortunately, that they had all gone bad.

Not wanting them to go to waste, though, the kids created works of art. The masterpieces below include a dog, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, and Lilo and Stitch.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dierdre Sporting Her New Accessory

I didn't attach the leash because I didn't want Dierdre to think we were going somewhere. She was amazingly patient for the photo shoot.


Tablet-woven Dog Leash Add-On

A few weeks ago I mentioned I had learned to tablet weave (or card weave). I'm really enjoying it.

I work on an inkle loom.


This system has several advantages over the traditional method of tying one end of the warp to a stationary object, such as a doorknob, and one end to your belt, making you one of the warp anchors. An inkle loom is portable, you can get up and walk away at any time, you can take the loom outside and run in if it starts raining, which has happened to me, to name a few benefits of not being literally tied to your work.

I've been weaving a variety of items, including this dog leash add-on for Dierdre. One end attaches to the end of her leash, the other end to her collar. Blue is a great color for her! Do you think she approves of my work?





For a demonstration of tablet weaving on an inkle loom, check out this youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex2gmUDmZAY.

http://www.earthguild.com/products/riff/rcdweave.htm offers a brief written introduction to card weaving.

For some history of the craft, go to  http://www.academia.edu/1488597/Hallstatt_Tablet_Weaving and  http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1199&context=tsaconf.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Devil's Claw

I pulled this little specimen off my dog, Dierdre, this afternoon. I've been disentangling them from sheep all summer.


It's called Devil's Claw, or Proboscidea parviflora. Traditionally it's used in basket making, medicine, and food, but it plays hell with furry and woolly animals. I received a nasty cut when I came across one unexpectedly while shearing a sheep.

I'm all for diverse and traditional uses of plants, but I would be quite happy NOT to find them on my property or on my animals.

http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_prpa2.pdf and http://www.fireflyforest.com/flowers/2215/proboscidea-parviflora-doubleclaw/ give more information on and pictures of the plant.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sheep Breeds

Did you know there are more than 200 breeds of sheep? Some are raised for wool, some for meat, some for milk, some for a combination of those traits. A few are even wild, such as the Bighorn sheep of North America.

Some sheep reared for meat are hair sheep; they don't have wool, just hair that they shed yearly. The American Blackbelly is one of them.

American Blackbelly

The Cotswold is considered a tri-purpose sheep. They produce high-quality wool, meat, and milk.

Cotswold - Sierra and lamb

Some sheep have great wool, but they aren't so desirable for eating. Others represent the opposite: flavorful meat but so-so wool.

Friesian Milk Sheep and British Milk Sheep are examples of good dairy sheep. Yes, sheep can be milked just like goats. Sheep's milk feta is lovely.

Friesian Milk Sheep






British Milk Sheep





























To see pictures of many of those 200+ breeds of sheep and to find out more about them, go to http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/. All of the photos in this post, except the one of the Cotswold (she's mine) are from that website.

Let me know which are your favorites. Mine, of course, is the Cotswold, but I find breeds such as the Welsh Mountain, the Manx Loaghtan, and the Exmoor Horn to be fascinating.

Welsh Mountain





Manx Loaghtan

Exmoor Horn
























Monday, August 12, 2013

Catching Up

An August 12th resolution: blog frequently and on a regular basis.

A variety of things have happened around here -- good, bad, and peculiar.

I learned to tablet weave (or card weave) on an inkle loom and how to tablet weave words into the bands. I'll post more about that later and include pictures. It's fun and very cool.

Much to my dismay, a coyote killed three of my hens. I only have two left now. I walked out to feed them one morning a couple weeks ago and caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It took me several seconds to realize I was looking at a coyote. He ran, with one of my hens in his mouth, across the property and jumped a five-foot fence topped with a strand of barbed wire into the neighbors' property and raced out their open gate.

When I looked around, I found three piles of feathers. He had already eaten two hens before I appeared on the scene. I was so sad and so angry. The two hens that survived are my two obsessed chickens that keep sitting on eggs that won't hatch. But at least that kept them out of the coyote's reach.

I was very worried that he'd come back. I read up on how to keep coyotes out of your property. One suggestion was to spray ammonia on the fence. I bought a bottle of ammonia that afternoon after work and sprayed it along the fence line. The coyote hasn't been back.

I've raised free-range chickens for almost ten years. This is the first time I've lost any to a wild predator. A couple friends suggested the coyote may have been displaced by the Yarnell Hill fire which was only about 20 miles away. That makes sense. Perhaps he was passing through this area.

A peculiar incident happened today. The water pump inside the house kept running when it should have turned off. I dashed to the window looking for any signs of water flowing. The faucet at one of the water troughs was on, and water was pouring onto the grass. I hurried out and turned it off.


I guess one of the sheep turned it on somehow. That's never happened before, but I can't think of a better explanation. I certainly doubt someone walked all the way across my property, turned on a faucet, and then left. It was very odd, though. Am I going to have to lock the faucets to prevent the sheep from turning them on?

On another note, the monsoon rains resulted in lots of beautiful green grass. The sheep have certainly enjoyed grazing it.









Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hens

Five and a half dozen eggs, that's how many eggs some friends and I found one of my hens hoarding in the rafters of the barn. I suspected I wasn't finding all the eggs, but 5 1/2 dozen? That's ridiculous. I don't even have a rooster, so she had no hope of hatching them. And can you imagine if you had that many baby chicks to look after at one time? Unfortunately, the eggs are all too old use. It's pretty hot up there, and they had gone bad. Silly, silly hen.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hobbles


When I shear one of my sheep, I put her on a shearing stand with her head in a stanchion. This setup keeps the front end of the sheep fairly steady, but the rear end can pivot all over the place, and, believe me, it does.

I looked online and saw some hobbles for goats. They were made from nylon webbing, closed with Velcro, and were adjustable. They appeared fairly simple. I figured I’d make a pair to try out the idea. If they worked, I’d make a better pair or order some.

I’m glad I experimented with my cheap version first. NEVER mix Velcro with sheep – and their wool. Use your imagination for the rest!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Handspun Cotswold Wool Yarn

A new acquaintance of mine helped shear Solomon a couple weeks ago. She left with some of his wool and a bit of Sierra's, as well. Below are pictures of two skeins of yarn she spun from their fleeces.

Sierra


Solomon

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Garden Beginnings

Last weekend I replaced part of the garden fence. I need to keep sheep and rabbits out -- and hens, too, for that matter, until the plants get big enough to hold their own. I turned over a little soil, but it was really only a token start.

Yesterday I purchased some "Tall Telephone Peas" from The Native Garden, a local shop in Prescott.

This morning I dug some more and dumped a couple five-gallon buckets of sheep and chicken manure on the ground to mix in later. Everyone says not to plant tomatoes outside until after Mother's Day to avoid any possibility of freezing, but I hope to get some peas in today or tomorrow.

I intend to plant a variety of beans, carrots, green onions, tomatoes, maybe potatoes, squash, and cucumbers.

Perhaps my gardening motto should be "Think big, keep digging, and haul more manure."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Day in the Life

I don't really have typical days, but this was how yesterday went.

Dierdre and I fed the sheep and chickens first thing in the morning. The weather was beautiful: bright blue sky, no wind, and just a bit cool. I fed the sheep from the hay in the back of the truck. Don't worry. I've stopped parking it on top of a hill; it's safely situated on nice, flat ground. I do need to unload it, though. Scout has been treating it like a salad bar again. I covered the hay near the tailgate, but he managed to pull the cloth away and indulge. He's not even bothering to look guilty anymore. He turned and looked at me with his hay-covered face and then went back to munching.

The chickens are free range, but I supplement their food during the winter. Once grass, weeds, and bugs begin to flourish, they'll be on their own. For now, though, every morning they eagerly run to me for grain and get downright annoyed if I don't immediately feed them. It's kind of strange to have a flock of hens rush you (even if "rush" means waddle-waddle as fast as they can.) I keep telling the chicks they're free range and are going to have to forage completely for themselves soon, but I don't think they believe me.

After breakfast, I loaded the car with my presidential paraphernalia for my Mountain Spinners and Weavers Guild (http://www.mtnspinweave.org/) meeting. Being president is heavy! I have to take a large notebook, a briefcase-sized microphone system, an extension cord, a large coffee can in which to put the names of people who participate in show and tell, and any mail the guild has received that month. Yesterday I also brought two borrowed knitting books that I wanted to return to a guild member and two library books and a video I needed to take back to the public library. Additionally, I put a dozen eggs in the car to drop off at a neighbor's house on the way out of town.

The program at the guild meeting was great. The Barrington House Educational Center (http://www.thebarringtonhouse.org/) presented a program on “Fashionable Women of the Arizona Territory,” a pictorial program defining the current trends in women’s fashions from 1860 to Arizona Statehood in 1912, investigating how real Arizona women dressed during this time period. Clad in period clothing, the speakers showed numerous pictures of 19th- and early 20th-century clothing and enhanced their presentation with items from their collection. During the program I worked on a variegated cotton camisole that I'm knitting.

I stopped by Goodwill (they were having a 50%-off sale) and Costco following the guild meeting. I spent a bit too long enjoying the free samples at Costco and didn't have time to go into the library, so I just dropped off my books and video in the book return box. I had to hurry home because visitors were coming to help me shear a sheep.

Deb, a fellow guild member, and two of her friends, Pam and Laurie, arrived ready to shear. We had to delay things just a bit, so I could sharpen a couple pairs of shears. They filled a few buckets with manure for their gardens while they waited.

Dierdre, unfortunately, had to stay in the house. She's a wonderful dog but is not an asset during shearing. In fact, she makes everything much more difficult. She wants to participate in EVERY aspect of sheep raising and thinks she should always herd any sheep in my presence. Considering the sheep to be shorn is on a shearing stand and is stressed by the whole experience, having an enthusiastic Briard trying to herd it is not a good thing. So Dierdre stays in the house and barks and whines during shearing. I don't understand it. She's very smart and knows her complaints aren't going to do any good, but she keeps it up the entire time. I figure she's just trying to make me feel guilty for excluding her.

We chose a yearling black ram to shear. He was amazingly well behaved, especially considering it was his first shearing. I greatly appreciated the help getting him on the shearing stand. We had fun shearing. It was a new experience for my guests. They all did very well.

This particular ram did not get named last year, so we spent some time coming up with a suitable appellation for him. The suggestions ranged from George (after George Clooney) to Skipper from "Gilligan's Island." We finally settled on Solomon. I won't even attempt to follow the trains of thought that led to that name.

After we finished shearing, we fed the sheep. Deb tried to pet Solomon, but he clearly had had enough human interaction and kept sidestepping her.

We oohed and aahed over Solomon's wool as we carried it inside, and I showed off Sierra's locks from her shearing last week. (I'll post pictures of Sierra's gorgeous white fleece soon.)

After the others left, I grabbed a shower. There's no way you can shear a sheep and avoid smelling like one. I like how sheep smell and love the lanolin in their wool, but I have no desire to smell like one after I've finished shearing.

I fed Dierdre, fixed myself some dinner, and ate while watching an episode of "Sons of Anarchy" on DVD. I contemplated knitting or writing a blog post or weaving but only found enough energy to play "Words with Friends" on Facebook for awhile. And that was my day.

Solomon, newly sheared

Monday, April 1, 2013

More Baby Lamb Pictures

The first photo is Wolverine. The rest are Wolverine and Callisto with their mother, Minerva.










Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tomato Cage

This post isn't about gardening. This post is about Scout who got his head stuck in a tomato cage.

I attempted to remove it, but Dierdre tried to help, and her assistance isn't always useful. Since Scout wasn't in any pain or danger, I decided to go ahead and feed the sheep. When I put Dierdre in the house, I grabbed my camera and took some pictures.

Scout managed to eat despite his situation. However, the tomato cage acted rather like a dog's plastic Elizabethan collar. It kept moving the hay. So after every bite or two, he had to inch forward after the feed. I noticed he also used it to push other sheep away and keep his bit of hay to himself.

De-caging him wasn't difficult. I had to bend a couple wires. He pulled one way, and I yanked the opposite direction, and within seconds he was free. He immediately went back to eating, of course.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wolverine and Callisto

Minerva had twins! They were born Sunday. I've named the boy Wolverine and the girl Callisto. Most of the pictures are of Minerva and Wolverine. Callisto had apparently just eaten and wanted to nap.





You can't see Wolverine's tail because he's wagging it furiously. Lambs often wag their tails when they eat. If you're trying to get a reluctant lamb to nurse, wiggle its tail when it's near the mother's teat. The action encourages it to suckle.






Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Young Wisdom

As we were walking to the barn to feed the sheep, one of my helpers, an astute seven year old, said, "I think you should name your next lamb Tony Stark." That girl really knows her Marvel Comics.

I laughed and replied, "I don't know. It would sound pretty strange calling across the field, 'Tony Stark! It's time to eat!'"

Her ten-year-old brother countered with, "Doesn't yelling 'Thor' sound kind of weird?"

Yeah, that kind of logic is hard to argue with.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eggs...P.S.

Oops. I can't believe I forgot the funniest part of the egg story from yesterday.

As I said, the hens laid six lovely, large eggs. I wasn't expecting that many, though, and carrying six eggs was a little tricky. The laying boxes are in the hay storage room. I have to latch the door on that room to keep my persistent, clever, and ever-hungry sheep out. There was no way I could affix the hook to the door while holding six eggs, so I set them on the ground nearby.

Dierdre walked over, picked one up, and trotted off. I couldn't believe it. She'd never shown any interest in eggs before. I called, "Hey! What are you doing? Give that back." She set it on the ground and looked at me, all innocence. I picked up the egg. Other than being a bit slobbery, it was fine. She hadn't cracked the shell when she picked it up, carried it in her mouth, or set it on the ground. I was impressed. For such an active, take-charge herding dog, she shows a lot of gentle finesse.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Egg, Egg, Chicken

Some of my hens started laying again a few weeks ago after their winter hiatus. I have six hens that are a year old this month and one (Elderchick) that will be 10 years old in July. I've been getting two to four eggs a day since they resumed laying. Today there were six eggs!




I don't know if Elderchick is laying. She produced magnificently last year for her age.




However, this is the first time since the young 'uns began laying that I've had six eggs in one day. Now, if I get seven eggs on the same day, it will be incontrovertible proof everybody's on the job.













Friday, March 8, 2013

Dreams, Sheep, and Handknitting

Every once in awhile I dream my sheep have gotten loose, and I'm desperately trying to round them all up. It's a nightmare, literally! Sometimes the dreams take place in a city, and sheep are wandering into the streets through busy intersections. Other times they're at my parents' house and keep getting out into the vacant lot next door. Each time I manage to get one sheep back in through the gate, two more escape. Ugh.

Last night's dream was a peculiar variation on the theme, though. I'm not sure where I was. It was sort of a combination of my grandmother's yard and the house we lived in when I was 8 years old. The backyard was much bigger than reality, but that's typical of dreams.

I went outside and started looking for the sheep. I realized one of the rams was in the alley outside the fence. Then I spotted another sheep and then another. Then there was a Jack Russell terrier.

Now this is when things got really peculiar! I don't know any Jack Russell terriers; I never have. But that's what he was. And he was wearing one of my handknitted caps. He looked quite fetching in it. A neighbor I didn't know came along and picked him up. She was wearing one of the sweaters I had made. As I looked around, I saw several of my sheep wearing my knitted caps, as well.

I was confused and rather put out. I didn't know this person. Why was she wearing one of my sweaters? She calmly told me they thought it would be good advertising for my work if they wore them. She was very polite about it. I thanked her and took the cap off the Jack Russell. I woke up after that.

I'm not even going to try to figure out that one!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Never Let a Sheep Drive

I bought hay yesterday. When I got home, I decided I was too tired to unload it, so I parked the truck up near the house and figured I'd feed the sheep out of it for a day or two until I got around to storing the hay bales in the barn.

So this morning I got up, threw a few flakes of hay from the back of the truck to the sheep, and went to work.

When I got home I parked the car, dropped my purse and groceries in the house, let the dog out, and headed for the truck. It wasn't there. Before my panic fully developed, I spotted it down near the barn. Then I really gasped. I could see the faint tire tracks slightly off the right side of the drive leading from where I had left the truck to where it now stood. It had taken a fairly straight path along the garden fence, over a shovel handle, near or over a good-sized rock (not sure about that), and then rolled smoothly to a slight rise about 8 feet from the shearing pen where it luckily came to a stop.

Apparently the truck had slipped out of gear. I've had trouble with it doing that a couple times before, so I always double-check that it's firmly in first gear when I park it. The emergency brake is more a brake in name than in fact. If you drive with it on, the most you usually notice is a decrease in gas mileage.

My guess is that a ram or two put their hooves on the back bumper to try to reach the hay in the truck bed. They've done this before. However, this time they appear to have set the truck in motion. It is very lucky that no sheep or lambs or chickens got run over as the truck made its way downhill. Everyone seems fine, including the truck. Me, however, I'm still shaking a bit with "what-could-have-happened" thoughts. Lesson learned.


I took this picture from where I parked the truck. It traveled a fair distance.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chiengora

Currently I'm spinning dog fur, also known as "chiengora." Specifically, I'm working with Maltipoo.

Dierdre, my dog, has been glued to me; whenever I'm spinning the fur, she's no more than 12 inches from my chair. She doesn't act this way when I spin other fibers. I don't know if this attitude is simply because I'm spinning dog fur or if it's because Dierdre knows the dog whose fur I'm spinning. In either case, I have to be very careful every time I move to not run into her.

Dog fur spins up into beautiful yarn. Most any fur of at least 2"-3" in length can be spun. Owners (friends, custodians, servants, or whatever the humans' relationships are to their dogs) just brush their canine as usual. Instead of throwing the fur in the trash, they stow it in paper bags. When they have enough fur, voilà,  fiber ready to be made into yarn. Fur from poodles, Maltipoos, and other dogs that are normally trimmed during grooming can be spun, as well. Brushed fur is best, though, as it results in the softest yarn.

When I lived in Kansas, I participated annually in a harvest festival. I demonstrated spinning and sold my work. One year a girl of about nine years old watched me spin for half an hour. She was quite fascinated, especially when I told her I could spin fur from her dog, who she had brought to the festival. She immediately ran her fingers through his fur several times and then presented me with a handful of fluff. I spun it on the spot and gave her the yarn.

The following year, she and her dog came back. She proudly told me she still had the yarn I had made for her. It was a very cool experience.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Storm and Thor

I took some twilight pictures of two of the lambs, Storm and Thor. Rogue kept disappearing among the adults, so I'll have to get photos of her later. Storm is the one with the white spot on top of her head. Actually, they all have a small tuft of white, but hers is the most noticeable.






Monday, January 28, 2013

"Snow. What Snow?" -- Sheep

It's nice to know my sheep are content in a variety of weather conditions. The first picture is of them lounging as snow began to fall. The second photo is them still lounging 20 minutes later while being coated with snow. (The lambs wisely stayed in the barn.)