The Year Begins!

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!!!

 

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We’re Back!

 


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!

 

The List:

•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.

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Determination!

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.

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Be careful what you wish for!

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.

Now we have week of rain, snow and cold before us, and shearing is a week from tomorrow. I wonder how long it will take to turn our wishes around…..we need spring back by Sunday at the latest!
Tonight: Showers likely. Low 34º F
Tuesday: Rain/Snow Hi 42 °F /Lo 34 °F
Wednesday: Rain/Snow Hi 39 °F /Lo 25 °F
Thursday: Chance Rain/Snow Hi 37 °F / Lo 19 °F
Friday: Chance Rain/Snow Hi 36 °F /Lo 21 °F
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Suddenly it’s winter

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.



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Late News

Some of it really late! So much has been happening in our lives…I will try to catch up over the next few posts.

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!

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There and Back

I am home now for a while. The trip to the BSG was long and arduous, but being there, and seeing so many friends was worth it. I took lots of photos, but on the last day, I lost my camera! I am still hoping that it will turn up as I continue to unpack the truck.

BSG photos will have to wait, but for now a long overdue post:  joyful photos taken just before and during my last trip to AZ.

This beauty graced our dining room table in the week before I left for my last trip to AZ….one of my mother’s orchids, one that we bought together a few years ago. It sent up two flower spikes in early May, and opened the first blossom on my birthday. It was in full bloom on the anniversary of her death and on her birthday, perhaps so that I would know that she was still watching over it…and over me. There is also a bud growing on the old flower stem, so it plans a finale when the others are done.

When I got to AZ in late May, the desert was blooming…I took these photos driving north from Phoenix.

All of the Saguaro cacti were wearing crowns of flowers, so appropriate since they stand like royalty all through the desert and even along the highways.   One of them put flowers everywhere she could….

The prickly pears were just beginning to bloom…

These two beauties grew all along the roadside:

And lastly, my favorites…a penstemon variety that glows in the light.

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Another Homecoming

My part-time work off the farm means that there are many sad leave-takings and many happy homecomings. This past trip happened just three weeks after lambing…by the time I left for AZ, Jiggs had spent his days with the mamas and lambs, but hadn’t spent any nights in the barn. He still thought that he was a dog or maybe a cat, but he was ready for the transition. So while I was away, he lived full-time with the flock.

By the time I came home this time, Jiggs had found his “inner sheep”. And thanks to Brook’s intelligent fostering (read: no shmoozing), Jiggs now comes for his bottle at feeding time, but immediately runs away to rejoin the other sheep…no snuggling, no interest in people at all…

I am happy to see that he is now as agile as the other lambs and that his little legs have grown straight and strong. I am sure that our friend and acupuncturist Karen made all the difference in the beginning. Karen is a shepherdess too, and this spring, when she had a lamb who was unable to stand up after birth, she used acupuncture, and almost immediately her lamb pulled up his hind legs and stood!

So I asked her if she thought she could help Jiggs and with the supervision of 3 Border Collies (Toby’s eyes are glowing by Jiggs’ head), Karen placed needles strategically to strengthen his legs. What a difference…what a blessing!

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The Camera’s Eye

I don’t have a lot to say today; too many clouds on my horizon, so I will show you what my camera saw yesterday….quite a few rams (!) but lots of exciting markings and loads of substance:

These are Sheltering Pines Plein Jeu’s lambs this year; both rams but….oh my! One of them is clearly a spotted katmoget; but by the color of the spots, I think that the lighter one may be a kat too. We hope that they grow up with perfect horns!

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These little to-be-grey boys have just the greatest bodies…they came out bucking and by the time they left the jug, they looked a couple of weeks old!  They are out of our lovely Ilse…I can promise that you will be seeing more of them.

Sprite gave us two little gulmoget ewes….someone has asked which one would be for sale. How can we make THAT decision???

And for your amusement…this year’s llama walker: Pavane’s little gully girl.

Shortly after I took this photo, another lamb jumped up too. Amelia is fine with one lamb (actually seems to like it), but rolled them both off when the second one joined in. Enough is enough!

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A Close Call

Lilka was born last spring and from the beginning it was obvious that she would stay on here at Stonehaven Farm. Everything about her was beautiful to my shepherd’seye…she is a katmoget (light badgerface genetics) with a perfect little body,  a big soft lustrous fleece with the long single coat that we have been breeding for….and beyond that, her impish personality completely captured my heart.

We almost lost Lilka this week to polioencephalomalacia…presumably from stress related to shearing a few days before. We were unaware of any problems until we found her having seizures last Sunday afternoon; she has been in “intensive care” ever since. An hour or so after giving her B-vitamins fortified with thiamine, CMPK sub-Q and some Banamine, she was once again able to stand….but still blind and confused. As soon as she was able to swallow, she got doses of probiotic to restore her ailing rumen.

Since Monday, Lilka has been looking like a well sheep in all regards except one. She hasn’t been able to eat or drink by herself. She has been given our rumen remedy, oral CMPK and copious amounts of probiotic several times a day…all keeping her alive, but somehow the flora in her rumen hadn’t been able multiply to numbers that would sustain her.

In addition to all this, as soon as she was able to deal with it, I began feeding her small amounts of hay by putting it into the side of her mouth…and although I have been careful to give her only a little at a time, she has chewed and swallowed very well; just couldn’t pick it up on her own. But she was obviously hungry for it…lately sniffing me and nudging me a bit when I was in the pen with her.

For the past three days, with sunny warm(ish) temperatures, it seemed better to let her out of her little pen in the barn so that she could feel like a “sheep” and could be as stress free as possible. So in the mornings, she got her meds and probiotic and was topped up with the rumen remedy and gruel before she went out with the others.

Each day, she has stood watching the other sheep, and going from hay pile to hay pile feeling that she ought to do something, but was unsure how to go about it. But TODAY (tah-dah!) she ate a little with the others…not terribly efficiently, but she managed to get her mouth around the hay for the first time.

We won’t stop giving her the rumen support and vitamins, but I feel sure that our dear little Lilka will recover, and will grace our farm for years to come.

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