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?!


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 continues to supervise and gives the pencil a peck.


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


They quickly decide they are ok to sample.


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.


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




Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 2:49 am  Leave a Comment  

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.





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



Published in: on January 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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!


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.


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, “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.


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!


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!


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.




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!


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!


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!


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  

Karakul Wool + Angora Mohair = ???

No, this is not a new cross-breed! It is a story of blending wool and mohair to make felt. For those of you, like myself a few years ago, do not know the different types of fiber that can go into felt here is a short breakdown.

Wool comes from sheep. Mohair comes from Angora Goats. We usually call what we get from llamas and alpacas “Fiber” (not a part of this story). And then there are Angora Rabbits who produce – angora! Also not a part of this story.

Julie, a friend of mine with Karakul Sheep and Angora Goats (and, incidentally, Angora Rabbits!) asked me if I could make her some felt panels for her exhibitor area at the California State Fair which was last week for sheep and goats. Julie and I got together with her fiber – natural and dyed – and discussed design plans. It was a true collaboration.

I had not blended wool and mohair on the carder before so wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. We decided on three panels that would have a base of natural colored wool and mohair – cream/white. Then an ombre look for two panels which would have an edge of mohair only (black), a blend of mohair and wool in middle and all wool at other edge.

Here is the wool and mohair on the carder belt.

karakul and mohair on belt

Here is a partially felted ombre panel. The challenge here is that the mohair alone is really heavier than the wool and kept dropping off the back of the carder and didn’t want to go onto the drum! With a little work, I got it to wind on.


Julie dyed both Karakul and mohair locks so we planned out how to use these but then Julie said just to use my own judgement. Perfect collaboration! I sorted both sets by color to get an idea of what I had to work with.

sorted karakul

Dyed Karakul


Dyed Mohair

Dyed Mohair

For one panel, I laid out stripes of Karakul color on one side of panel and added Mohair color to the other surface area.

three stripe on table

And the finished panel.

three stripe at studio

And one of the finished ombres.

mohair with blue at studio

At the fair, Julie came up with a very creative way to use the panels.

horizontal at fair

double helix at fair

other vertical panels at fair

Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of the sheep and goats! Here are a couple of Julie’s Karakuls at the fair. Sorry, no goat photos.

karakuls at fair

And, as always, at home I appreciate the wool our Karakuls give us. It is very hot here right now so could only get good photos of Quentin but isn’t he beautiful?!

quentin eating

quentin by gate

And no goats (or goat photos) here either! They are smarter than I am so sticking to sheep!

Published in: on July 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm  Comments (3)  
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Sheep Smile

A friend of mine, Carol of Joshua Farm Shetlands, asked me awhile back if I could make a felt banner for her with her logo on it. Carol and her family have a wonderful flock of award-winning Shetland Sheep. She wanted to have the banner done by this year’s Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon, if at all possible. Oh and she wanted it made from her Shetland wool, of course!

Time to get into gear! I washed a few fleeces that I just happened to have (!) of her wool and got them carded into batts.

Here is the logo on one of her yarn wraps.


This will be fun because I get to add some color – and because I love the smile on that sheep!

I got the logo enlarged so the finished size made sense for the 4 ft by 2 ft banner Carol wanted. Then I traced the sheep and the flowers onto heavy interfacing so I could then cut the shapes out of pre-felt (which is is wool that is not completely felted and so can then be felted onto another piece of wool felt).



I needle felted on the colors and details by hand and then placed these pre-felts onto the felted base, added the lettering and ran through the Felt Loom. Finished!


And hung at Black Sheep Gathering this past June!


As for those Shetland Sheep, we are lucky to have three of them on our farm:

Earl, an easy-going wether with very nice real black wool!


Carmen, a moorit ewe who loves her morning and evening bit of bread – and a good chin scratch….


And Eve (usually called Evie), a small ewe with a very sweet temperament and insatiable curiosity (seen here checking out what will be the new chicken coop).


They make me smile.

Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 1:56 am  Comments (2)  

Little Things….and Big Things

Returned from the islands and ready now to get back into the routines of the farm and making things.

First, however, some new things in the barnyard.

Little things….new water buckets. It has been pretty hot here since I got back so the flock gets new buckets outside – and an additional one inside as they are going through more water at night now with drier grasses to eat.

buckets outside


For the big things. we had been thinking since building the new barn that it might be hotter in there than the old barn. It seems to be true. So we ordered some gates made that would let us keep the big doors open at night so air could move around in the barn. It seems to be working pretty well. I have added some wire panels since I took these photos, just to make more predator proof.

The gates fold back nicely against the inside walls.

gate open to inside

The flock wasn’t sure they liked to see in but not be able to get in – or maybe it’s their natural curiosity, demonstrated here by Nellie (of course).

checking out gate

And by Evangeline, looking annoyed (my interpretation).

can't get in

OK. That’s better.

going in

An added bonus is being able to see the flock settle in for the night!

through gate


Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 8:32 pm  Comments (5)  

Last Hebridean Post: the Shearing of Baghasdal, the Ram

Our time in the Outer Hebrides is at an end. However, we squeezed in a couple more important activities: watching a shearing and seeing a natural dyeing. In this way, we sampled croft work of both Jonathan and Denise.

First, the shearing. Jonathan had already sheared the hogget (yearling or so) rams. But the flock sire, Baghasdal (“Valley of the Bays”) remained.


He is a beautiful ram. Because it kept raining on us on and off, Jonathan decided to move the shearing to the stone building down by the shore. He uses the hand shears and did the front first, with his little helper watching what would be in store for him in the future!


He then lays him on one side, and then the other, getting the wool off. Baghasdal is being very cooperative. He also gets his hooves trimmed and is dosed for worms.


Rhubarb and Primrose decide to take a nap. This shearing stuff is exhausting!


Returned to the group, he is inspected to see just who this guy is!


We take the fleece with us back to the Big Garden as Jonathan and Denise want to get a closer look at it and Mary and I will be seeing how Denise does her natural dyeing. I am so surprised and pleased to find that I will be able to have this beautiful fleece shipped back to the U.S. after we scour it! What a generous gift!

We give it a skirting.


Then a scouring.


Meanwhile, Denise shows us the dyestuffs we will use today – stinging nettles and Sweet Cicely.



The end result of the afternoon – dyed wool (yarn), dyed fleece, and washed Baghasdal fleece. Fantastic!


It has been a phenomenal trip – a perfect place to stay, unbelievable weather, wonderful sheep, and fun and generous hosts. What more could you ask? A return trip! Boys, I will be back!




Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment