First Shearing of the Year

At the end of January I headed to Barinaga Ranch with a couple friends to gather fleeces fresh from the East Friesian Sheep. Now, if you remember from an earlier blog this year, I do have a whole small room dedicated to the fleeces of East Friesian Sheep. However, it is such a great wool for the type of products that I make that I want to make sure I always have enough. I keep finding new things to make with it so it is important to keep this room full. It looked pretty full before the shearing….

e-fr-room-1

…but there usually seems to be room for more!

Our favorite shearer, John, is the shearer here, too.

john

These sheep have the most beautiful heads!

e-fr-heads

And they have several guardian dogs, always watchful.

guardian-dog

The fleeces, as usual, were gorgeous.

black-fleecebrown-tipsclose-up-w-grey

Some fit in my van and the rest in my friend, Carol’s.

in-van

and they all fit into the East Friesian room!

e-fr-room

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Deep Litter

I was reading a book about life in the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s and 1960s and the author (Katherine Stewart) mentioned using the deep litter system for their chickens. Of course, I had to look it up, thinking it was only a Scottish system. Not true – I found current Google links to people using this system in the U.S as well. You rake up the floor of bedding and add fresh bedding – wood chips in our case – letting the chickens mix it up scratching for grain. A way to keep things fresh and then clean out when it gets quite deep.

Sounded good to me. Here is the process:

  1. Buy wood chips

wood-chips

2. Survey current floor. Yup, needs fresh bedding.

before

3. Gather equipment, which, of course, attract helpers.

nellie-checks-out-cleaning-supplies

sheep-want-to-know-whats-going-on

Hazel,

Hazel, “Does this involve food for us?”

4. Spread wood chips.

chips-down

5. A Buff checks it out a little tentatively.

buff-heads-in

6. Elizabeth is glad I put her swing back down!

eliz-2

7. Chooks do their scratching and nicely mix and spread the bedding,

Teamwork – Makes it all work!

chooks-do-their-work

Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 5:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Hay Delivery

It had been so wet and muddy lately (yes, a common refrain here!) that we were close to running out of hay.

empty-messy-hay-room

Finally, we decided a delivery could be made. The sheep were happy to hear that, even though I made them stay in the upper pasture to avoid their “help”.

flock-watching-hay-truck

New alfalfa on right and new mountain grass on left, all neatly stacked.

full-neat-hay-room

The only casualty, the truck got stuck in the mud on the way out and needed a little tow. I guess it still was a little too muddy!

oh-oh

The flock didn’t really care about that. They just wanted to come down for supper!

"If we had metal utensils we would be banging them on this gate!"

“If we had metal utensils we would be banging them on this gate!”

 

 

 

 

Published in: on January 30, 2017 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  

A True and Very Wooly Adventure

I may take some kidding for going public with this, but here goes.

 

Last week six VERY good friends came over for a planned fleece sorting day. Not sure how I convinced all of them to do this but I think some of them may have offered! The goal – take all of my fleeces out of the wool shed, storage shed, back patio and front porch and sort them by breed before replacing all in the wool shed (used to be the garage).

 

Colleen brought us all some very colorful gloves. Dona suggested a pool to guess how many fleeces there were.

gloves

And we got to work. There was no clear and consistent labelling system for fleeces collected over several years so my job was to listen for people calling out sheep names or other codes to determine in which pile on the drive way to place the bags and boxes. “Kate?” “Karakul”. “Ingrid?” “Churro”. “JF” “Joshua Farm which means it goes in the Shetland pile!” And so forth. Breed names were placed in spots for sorting purposes.

looking-back-toward-house

stacks-by-tree

piles-with-signs

Some additional sorting was sometimes required and Krystle was also able to collect some samples for some upcoming Fibershed related events.

krystle-and-carol-sorting

krystle-with-samples

People hand carried or used whatever they could find to move all these fleeces around.

mary-carrying

krystle-with-stack-on-dolly

fleeces-in-cart

At last – everything out. Empty shelves – a rare sighting here!

empty-shelves

After lunch and some chatting, we reversed the process and everything went back in, only in better order! Turns out the East Friesians needed their own room. Everything else fit on shelves, sometimes high on shelves. (Well, ok, there are still a few on the back patio but they are organized!)

Doesn't Dona look happy that we are on the putting away part?!

Doesn’t Dona look happy that we are on the putting away part?!

East Friesian room

East Friesian room

back-shelves

alley-between-shelves

And the answer to how many fleeces? 457!!! And Dona won the pool with her closest guess of over 500. I think she is pretty good at guessing!

 

Five hours and six friends to organize all this wool so that I can more easily find it when planning projects and preparing orders. Many, many thanks to Carol, Colleen, Dona, Krystle, Mary and Robin for all their help.

Hazel, "Hey, I eat all this good food and it just keeps growing!"

Hazel, “Hey, I eat all this good food and the wool just keeps growing!”

Published in: on January 26, 2017 at 12:04 am  Comments (2)  

Chook Coop Improvements

There is always more you can do for the animals and their surroundings. I never seem to get to all of it. However, these were a couple of things that needed doing and didn’t require me to climb on a ladder!

What  do you think these are for?!

tools

Chickens need calcium to help strengthen their shells. We tried just putting out a bowl of oyster shells for the new chickens like we have done in the past but they just kept spilling them and making more of a mess than usual. So, I thought maybe a wall-mounted container would help.

I discovered that this group of chickens is super curious and really want to supervise things.

elizabeth-checks-out-tools

Elizabeth continues to supervise and gives the pencil a peck.

elizabeth-pecks-pencil

A Buff decides to check out the shells once container is mounted. Curious but not very brave initially.

buff-checks-shells

They quickly decide they are ok to sample.

ok-to-eat

Another improvement was to secure the swing. The chickens love it but we have just missed hitting our heads on it many times. I thought getting it out of the way for cleaning and egg collection might be a good idea. First, I need to put in a screw eye. Elizabeth (I think) has to inspect my work.

Elizabeth, "Not sure I like the look of this!"

Elizabeth, “Not sure I like the look of this!”

A bungee cord through the screw eye works well. No more near misses! Of course, it goes back for their roosting. They really love jumping on it.

swing-attached

It is definitely worth all we put into the chickens when they provide us with such nice eggs!

eggs

 

 

Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 2:49 am  Comments (4)  

A Good Use for Mud

All of this rain has given us lots of mud here. It proves treacherous to move through, even with my boots on. I find if I stand in one place too long I am almost unable to move (probably a good reminder to not stand still!)

However, when doing chores yesterday I found that the mud does have some value – a replacement for the old plaster of Paris. The animals have left some endearing histories of their travels through it. I think it needs to be just the right thickness/density to achieve these looks.

Guineas…..

guinea-prints

Camelids…..

camilid-printsSheep….sheep-prints

It really is a privilege to have the stewardship of these animals (and the chickens who did not get into mud today!)

boot-prints

boots

Published in: on January 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm  Comments (2)  

And the rain continues….

We have not had this much rain in quite a few years so we are constantly checking that things are draining well – at least the places that we really need to drain well. So far, so good.

According to the weather service, we are in for several storms (coming from the Midwest I had a different interpretation of the words “winter storm” but have acclimated to the definition out here!) They call these ones “pineapple express” as they originate near Hawaii.

The guinea fowl do not find this amusing, whatever we call it. We put their food under cover outside and they are eating but also getting drenched.

“Who keeps throwing water on us?!”

We fed the young chickens indoors this morning but opened their door so they can go out if they want to.

Just getting to the door to open it for the sheep was a challenge!

wet-barnyard

Diamond and Paridot are not even sure if they are coming out. Paridot stretched out his neck to take his morning cookie without even stepping outside.

diamond-and-pari-peak-out

But, with the knowledge that her morning bread was waiting for her, Diamond got a lot braver and ventured out. The rest of the sheep who get bread (a blog post for another time) insisted on being fed inside. Eventually we saw some sheep out and both camelids.

Diamond,

Diamond, “Bread, please.”

Our seasonal creek is almost over its banks so we are hoping for a break in the rain to let things drain a bit before the next onslaught.

creek

Using one of my newly acquired Scottish words, I am going to call this day “dreich”. I think it mean dreary, dark, rainy, and dismal all at the same time. My friend, Jonathan, can please correct me or elaborate on this in a comment!

dreich

Published in: on January 7, 2017 at 10:56 pm  Comments (3)  

A Wet Start to the New Year

We are fortunate to have a lot of rain to begin the new year. Well, fortunate for those of us not flooding. We have minor accumulations but everything important is draining well.

The animals are less cheerful about it than we are as they don’t see the connection between water and good eating in the pastures. They prefer grazing to eating dry stuff so, I suppose, they do appreciate the rain in their own way.

The guineas yell a lot when it is wet. Of course, they yell a lot when it is dry so not sure if they know what they are complaining about!

guineas-in-mud

The barnyard is pretty wet and muddy now, which the sheep and camelids really do not like. There is a corner of the doorway where they exit that they prefer as it is the least muddy spot and they all find it.

muddy-barnyard

frieda-exiting-barn

Rocki,

Rocki, “Seriously, Diamond, does she expect us to exit this way?!”

They lose no time heading up to their favorite grazing hill once they make it through the doorway!

heading-up

The chickens needed some straw in their run today as it was getting very squishy in there. They love throwing it around. I figure it is mud abatement and entertainment at the same time!

new-straw-for-chickens

The rain is not affecting their interest in laying eggs. They began mid December and we are now finally getting enough eggs for a meal! They are starting at different times, as we guess by the range of sizes, even though they are all the same age. I think that middle one may be a double yoke – it is even bigger than the occasional egg we get from our older chickens!

eggs

So, grateful for the rain – and the eggs!

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 10:09 pm  Comments (3)  

Happy New Year – belated!

Hello and Happy New Year – only a couple days late. One of my resolutions is to do more blog posts in 2017!

In the meantime, although there have been some additions to flock and fowl, for now a simple greeting from most of the flock and some of the fowl. Wishes to all for a healthy, happy and productive new year!

 

Most of the flock managed to get into this photo - we are at 21 sheep now.

Most of the flock managed to get into this photo – we are at 21 sheep now.

Their guardians - who always come in last

Their guardians – who always come in last

The chickens who were babies in the last post. Not quite free-ranging yet.

The chickens who were babies in the last post. Not quite free-ranging yet.

And the guinea fowl. The 6 babies have joined the four older ones to free-range, although they seem to be hanging around for now!

And the guinea fowl. The 6 babies have joined the four older ones to free-range, although they seem to be hanging around for now!

Published in: on January 3, 2017 at 11:37 pm  Comments (4)  

From a Box to a Stock Tank to a Deluxe Coop: The Journey of 6 Buff Orpingtons, 6 Ameracaunas and 6 Guinea Keets

We were due to get some new chicks – down to four adult chickens and four Guinea Fowl. Age, predators and – we think – a re-location of a couple Guineas up the road had caused the need to re-supply the farm. The order was placed and the call came from the feed store that they had all arrived!

They came home in a very small box.

in box from Higby's

We had recently removed a stock tank from our dog run, much to Ringo’s dismay but he was getting yeasty from “swimming” in it. It was perfect for raising this large number of chicks – about double what we had ever done before.

in stock tank

They quickly figured out where to eat their feed and drink their water that had electrolytes added for a couple weeks.

figured out where to eat and drink

After about 3 1/2 weeks they were feathered out and had figured out how to fly which was making taking care of them increasingly risky. It was time to move!

is it time to move?

moving day

They were headed for a new chicken coop that we had built into the new barn last year, knowing we would eventually be adding new chicks. It apparently required inspection and approval by the sheep.

Eve inspects new waterer for outdoor run but they won't be out here for awhile.

Eve inspects new waterer for outdoor run but they won’t be out here for awhile.

Indoors, Eve gets help from Nellie and Lily. I guess they approved so we can bring in the chicks.

nellie and lily help eve inspect inside

Nellie, "I wonder where this goes?!"

Nellie, “I wonder where this goes?!”

It looks ready to us, too.

looks ready for move in

They arrived in one box from the feed store but it now takes two to get them to their new home!

"Oh-oh. We're back in a box!"

“Oh-oh. We’re back in a box!”

Welcome home!

birds in a box

better stay in a group!

"Hey - where did everybody go?!"

“Hey – where did everybody go?!”

They quickly found their new food and can settle in and continue growing!

found feeder

Thanks to my friends, Jonathan and Denise, and their wonderful chickens in the Outer Hebrides. I got the idea of adding a swinging roost after seeing something similar in their coop. I will update once the chicks and guineas get big enough to reach it!

And also big thanks to my chicken handlers, Marni and Mary. Hopefully the handling they gave them over the lasts few weeks will give us calmer birds!

Published in: on August 21, 2016 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment