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. and 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 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.