It has been a long time, with no posts since last fall…just at the end of our shepherding year. But time does fly…and it seems that there wasn’t much of it this year; at least no time for blogging…
The winter would have been restful in many ways…we had a mild and dry few months, and only had to plow snow twice…very strange for our valley. But I was away from home a good deal (now working mainly in NM…still in hospitals on the Navaho Reservation) and when I was home, it seemed that every hour of every day was spoken for.
Brook spent long hours and much good time in the guitar shop…making more beautiful guitars, the culmination of which was attending the Wintergrass music festival in Bellevue, WA with four of his guitars. They were played by many, and admired both for their beauty and for their sound.
In the short dark days of winter, we both revised our web-sites: the Brook Moore Guitars site and the Stonehaven Farm site (and as you can see from the menu at the top, I integrated our blog into the new web-site).
So now it is almost spring, and we begin the cycle again. We sheared last Friday and in a monumental effort, our shearer Clint Goodwin, did all the sheep on our “shear list” in one day…79 sheep were shorn, fleeces rough-skirted, bundled and stored away in the wool room. Lots of friends came to help on Friday, and it was a wonderful day. We all brought out to the barns more food than we could possibly eat, but we did our best!
The weather turned unseasonably warm for the two days following, and the skimpily clad sheep had warm sun on their backs. We fed them in the barns in the mornings and evenings and all seem to have done well.
Now newly shorn, we can see how the pregnant ewes are looking. We are one month away from lambing and it is always thrilling to anticipate the new lives…to try to fathom which ewes will twin and which will have singles, and to dream of colors and patterns. We will lamb 7 ewes this year, and anticipate around a dozen lambs….fewer than any year since our very first lambs in 1998.
But this is part of the plan; this year should see our flock growing smaller by 20 to 25% as we continue with our flock reduction. There is no sales list for 2012 yet…and it doesn’t look easy. I had my hands on every fleece just 4 days ago, and there wasn’t one that I didn’t want to keep!!!
…and your enemies closer”.
This time of year, I hold my breath watching the antics in the ram pasture. The older fellows vie for supremacy; the young boys are rowdy, roughing each other up, standing in huddles, learning to be “rams”. (If only they wouldn’t)
Today I went looking through our photofiles, and found ones that tell the story….
On the face of it, there seems to be a friendly bond between dominant rams as the weather gets cooler…over time, we have taken several photos of them whispering “sweet nothings” into each other’s ears….more likely threats!
There are serious conferences where they seem to be discussing who’s who in the hierarchy…..and who deserves to be the breeding ram for that year.
There are shoving matches…
And lots of posturing…which leads to photo-ops…which leads me to show you this year’s winners!
We used three rams…but we only bred 5 ewes to lamb here in 2012; because of our flock reduction plans, the groups were small, really small.
Loki was an easy choice. His lambs this spring were exceptional, and his amazingly fine soft fleece is coming through in them all. He got to breed 2 ewes whose fleece qualities should compliment his.
Spats was bred to our finest fleeced ewe, Heka. We have great hopes for this cross.
And contrary to our usual rules, we also used a 2011 ram-lamb (Galileo). He is an outcross to our flock, and with his soft mioget fleece and so many good qualities, he seemed a natural for a couple of ewes who carried the modifier gene. We hope that it doesn’t go to his head!
The lamb crop for 2012 will be small, but the lambs themselves should be very special. Will we part with any of them? Not for a while…..
However this isn’t the flock reduction that you might anticipate!
Last night, many teenage chickens left our farm for their new home a few miles away, and our chicken flock is back to a manageable size. Even the youngest of them can’t qualify as “chicks” now.
We didn’t plan on breeding chickens, but our Speckled Sussex hens had other ideas! Three hens (with no encouragement from us) produced 37 chicks this year.
It all started in June, when one of our Sussex ladies vanished. We feared the worst as there had been skunks and raccoons about, but in early July, Mayzie re-appeared with 12 baby chicks.
When they were 8 weeks old, Mayzie declared them grown, and went back to the chicken coop. We found a good home for the chicks, and things were back to normal…except that in the meantime, two more Speckled Sussex hens had gone missing. We dreaded the strong probability that there would be more chicks.
As if it were choreographed, on the day after Mayzie’s brood left, Juneau presented us with another dozen!
Two weeks later, we found Snowy sitting beside the house looking oddly shaped, but well.
Her secret: a dozen more chicks. Note not only the fluffy chick bump , but the tiny feet under her feathers.
We have enjoyed the chicks so much (they honestly do rival lambs for cuteness), but we fervently hope that these three ladies don’t decide to grace our farm with more babies next year!
I should mention that we have been truly impressed with the good mothering of these speckled beauties. They fiercely defended their babies from any perceived threats (cats, dogs, and small children), raised them up to be intrepid foragers…and kept track of all those chicks. They can count to 12! Besides being excellent layers (when they do give us their eggs), these hens are intelligent, trusting, and full of personality. They have captured our hearts.
The other hens in our little flock (they share the coop with 3 Buff Brahmas, 3 Light Brahmas, and 2 Ameraucanas) are good natured and beautiful, but these three Speckled Sussex are the only ones that have names! Our young Buff Brahma rooster is the father of the chicks.
We did keep two of Snowy’s pullets…how could we not?
Autumn is here, winter isn’t far away and I haven’t been able to post to our blog for lo these many months since our antiquated version of WordPress stopped working. We honestly haven’t been able to find the time to deal with the issues until now.
LIFE takes precedence over BLOGGING.
And there was an amazing “domino” list of things-to-do (each before the other could happen). I could do only some of it; Brook’s contribution has been huge!
•Find new web-design software (thanks to Brook). He used this software in redesigning his own web-site.
•Become proficient in using it…(lots of help from Brook).
•Redesign our farm web-site…you are there; use the menu bar at the top of the page.
•Download a new copy of WordPress…(thanks to dear Brook who in turn thanks our son Ben).
•Link the new blog to our webs-site and tailor its appearance…(in progress, thanks to Ben’s help and many hours of Brook’s time).
There are so many shareable events of the past half year…catching up isn’t really possible, but maybe I can add a post here and there to fill in the gaps.
Spring IS coming, but we keep cycling back into winter. We aren’t the only ones waiting….
But we were determined to shear this past week…the fleeces would have begun to be shed if we put it off any longer.
It rained hard from noon on the first day; thank goodness we could be under cover for shearing. And since our sheep lost their fleeces, we have had 3 snow squalls (one just now as I am writing) and lots of cold rain. To be fair to the weather-gods, there has been a little sunshine too. The sheep have been fed outside when we could, but in the barns when we have had to. They seem fine with all this…finer than I am!
We are grateful that the temperatures are no longer frigid. But even so each year after shearing, they are given extra deep bedding, all the hay that they will eat and kept penned close together during the nights..to share their body warmth. How I wish we didn’t have to shear so early, but we wouldn’t trade the Shetlands for another breed who didn’t shed their fleeces!
The sheep were calm on their shearing days, some knowing what they would face, some oblivious.
We had such good help from our friends those two days. As usual, it was tremendous fun for the humans involved. We solved most of the problems of the world while we skirted fleeces.
I doubt that the sheep felt the same way, but they tolerated it well.
Our shearer, Clint Goodwin, is the best shearer that we have ever had, and completely understands how shearing wool sheep differs from shearing the meaty types.
Our fleeces come off the sheep in wonderful shape (even if the sheep are “in the rise”). Shetlands can be more difficult to shear than most sheep, but he is gentle and quick.
We are very fortunate that he is willing to travel from his home in northern WA to shear our flock each year. Thank you, Clint!
Since we shear in the open at the upper barn, Houdini is temporarily ostracized from his flock to avoid interference on the shearing floor. But he keeps watch anyway.
Here is our friend Mark bringing in the last fleece of this year’s shearing…the 93rd! We were all tired and this was a welcome sight.
We gave up on shearing this week….snow and more snow, damp fleeces and frigid temperatures predicted for the end of the week. Our wonderful shearer (Clint Goodwin) has agreed to change his schedule and will come to shear our flock on the 16th and 17th of March.
We will have to deal with a certain amount of difficulty in March as the sheep will be further into the “rise” (beginning to shed their fleeces) by then, but this is a problem that we will deal with. We are only sorry that Clint will have to deal with it too.
After we made the decision to postpone, the sun came out for a while. But soon wintery weather reappeared, and this plus the promise of too-cold-for-naked-sheep-bodies temperatures made us know that this was the right decision.
It appears that all of our friends who help at shearing time will be able to come in March; it should be much more comfortable to skirt and pack up fleeces then!
This morning first thing, it was blowing snow sideways! We are not shearing! We feel smug.
I would like to show you a few photos of our world in the past couple of days, but for some reason, my blog program won’t add them.
But this one should give you the general idea. Suffice it to say, it isn’t exactly shearing weather!
We have been wanting more snow for summer irrigation water, but we haven’t had much precipitation for the last month. And then last week, we had a glimpse of spring. Beautiful sun warm on our shoulders. It was tempting; I even began dreaming of a vegetable garden. (And of course, at the same time, scheming for a quick effective deer fence!) We had to abandon our gardening habit last year because of bold and clever whitetails.
It was a gloriously long and warm autumn, lots of rain in the valley, and snow in the mountains. As a result, we are going into winter with more forage remaining in pastures and hayfields than we have seen in all the autumns that we have lived here.
We had a few little snowfalls, but nothing that made it necessary to move the sheep to winter pens. We continued to feed out in the pastures until a week ago.
Then last Wednesday, when temperatures were to plummet to single digits, with strong winds and severe wind-chill, we scurried around rebedding sheep barns, moving sheep to winter pens, and pulling up the remaining electronet fencing. We also dug out our old horse blankets and crammed those big (slightly portly) draft horse bodies into them. Too bad that I didn’t get a photo of the results! The horses don’t usually wear blankets, and after the winds stopped, we took them off. In our typical windless cold clear sunny days, they do just fine.
On Thanksgiving day, it began to snow…more that night and still more the next day. Light tiny flakes but adding up to 8 inches or so. It feels wonderful!
We were to go to Eugene during this time to be with Ben & Erin & baby Cameron, but I had been ill with a cold, and Brook then came down with it too. We didn’t want to take any viruses to Cameron, and so we stayed home for Thanksgiving, had a video chat visit with them, and enjoyed photos that Erin’s father took.
But we can hardly wait to spend real time with this precious baby….soon, very soon.
But first things first: My thoughts most days begin and end with our grandbaby Cameron, now 3 weeks old. Here is my favorite photo, taken when he was only half that age:
We keep up with Ben and Erin (the usually-tired-but-adoring parents) by phone, photos and video chats. We won’t get to see Cameron again until Thanksgiving (when all 4 grandparents will descend on the quiet little family). It will be grand!
We have been busy this fall, and every day seems to carry its own agenda…often separate from what we thought that we would be doing! Pre-winter busyness only ends with snowfall; perhaps not long from now!
Usually autumn is an almost restful time of year here; for a month or so, the sheep graze on open pastures, with all the cross-fencing from summer intensive grazing removed. When they think that they are done grazing, we begin to feed hay twice a day out in the field. This goes on until snow cover. It keeps them out of winter pens longer, and their left-overs and manure are good for the pastures.
But we have been away a lot: We made two journeys to Eugene in the last month, and I made one work-visit to AZ (shortened suddenly by Erin’s C-section). Once home, I went with Brook on a nine hour trip to a wood-seller in ID, and he went with me on an equally long trip to the Tri-Cities area in southern WA state. One of those trips is shrouded in secrecy (!); I will talk about the other one next time.
Brook has been busy on the irrigation ditches, helping to rebuild the structures destroyed by the floods in June. Thankfully, the floods had very little effect on our farm, but elsewhere in the valley, the waters rushed over pastures and barnyards, and took out bridges and roads. I will put these in as thumbnails for you to enlarge if you like:
I helped on one of the cement projects restoring the diversion box for our ditch….and on another day, was a “go-fer” on the big cement pour for our main head-gate. I took some photos while yards and yards of concrete were flowing down the chute into the forms that had taken months to design and create…very exciting, very tense.
But the end result was perfect; it was good to see such a huge effort turn out so well. Good job guys!
The last photo was taken with our brand new camera….our old Cannon has been ailing and is not long for this world. Brook had been carefully analyzing camera data when Michelle got her new Panasonic Lumix. At that point, we hadn’t been able to see one of these cameras up close, but a Lumix had been Brook’s top choice. Michelle’s road-tests were enough for us; our new camera arrived on Thursday.
There are lots of settings possible, but for my run-in photos, I used the automatic settings (which are very intelligent BTW) and did some low-light shots of sheep and chickens. When I took the photos, it was almost dusk; I expected blurry “motion-pictures”, but the Lumix passed this test with flying colors. Thanks Michelle!
This low-light photo shows a few of this spring’s chicks, now teenagers. In this group: our young Buff Brahma cockerel and assorted pullets…Buff Brahma ladies, one of the Speckled Sussex and two Aracaunas. There are others; so for all fellow chicken lovers, I promise more feathery shots soon!
We are back in Halfway now, having spent the first week of Cameron’s life in Eugene with Ben and Erin, and Erin’s parents, Anneke and David. We all could have stayed on happily and basked in the glory of this little grandson, but Brook and I were uneasy at being away from the farm too long. How we wish that Eugene were closer; I imagine that we will keep the roads warm this winter.
The four grandparents came by two’s to visit for a short time each day, leaving Ben and Erin to spend quiet time with Cameron…just the three of them.
Brook & Ben & Cameron….three Moore generations.
Cameron had to have some breathing assistance for a while with a machine that keeps a constant airway pressure to help the lungs expand, and increases their ability to oxygenate the blood.
Even during this time, his parents held him often, with the skin-on-skin contact that is now recommended. Whenever they held him, his heartbeat and breathing rate slowed, and the oxygen levels in his blood rose…it was magical to see.
Ben spent all the hospital stay with Erin, and thanks to the kindness of the nursing staff, both of them were able to move to a rooming-in situation in the neonatal intensive care until Cameron could be discharged. By the time that the three of them came home last Thursday (Cameron was 6 days old), Ben and Erin seemed totally organized in caring for their new son. Needless to say, they have settled easily into family life.
Erin was so very happy to be sitting in their own living room again…and she and Ben spent all afternoon cuddling their little one.
Even though he was a month early, Cameron is strong and takes in the world around him. His holding onto my fingers and looking up at me melted my heart; he is stunningly beautiful to this grandmother’s eyes!