“Keep your friends close…

…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.

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There are shoving matches…

And lots of posturing…which leads to photo-ops…which leads me to show you this year’s winners!

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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…..

 

 

 

 

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FLOCK REDUCTION

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.

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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?

 

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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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A good decision

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!

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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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