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Monday, July 28, 2014

Lamb update

Summer continues along at its own pace regardless of the whimpers of humans who ask it to slow down....

Standing hay monoliths at which wooly creatures will worship the idea of summer past....

578 bales in the barn, and another 400 to go upon our return from New England. I am steadily paying off my chiropractors student loans with visits to her office.

The "oops" lambs are steadily growing. This is Caol Ila with her mother Faola. She was the last lamb born and is a lap lamb. Snorgling is highly encouraged.

Despite looking black and white, she is a lovely shade of grey underneath, :)

Deja's twins; Roseburn and Daftmill. They are skittish and impossible to catch! They will come around eventually though. Roseburn is a dark blue grey and so far Daftmill is black.

I hope to find a wether home for hisself.

Ladyburn is as aloof and aristocratic as she looks. She too will succumb to the lure of cookies and scritches....she just doesn't know it yet.

Her mother, Nala, is a dear one so she can hardly escape her fate.

We check off our chore list, batten down the hatches, and enlist others to our cause so we may travel to New England to celebrate the life of Josie MacKinnon verra soon. We will join the rest of the far flung clan .....shortly.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The End of Lambing Season (again).

This morning, young Faola had a single ewe lamb.

I watched from the kitchen window until she got serious and then headed outside to watch closer up.

It happened pretty quickly and there was some serious cleaning up to be done.

Faola didn't let her up until she was completely clean.

By then the wee one was pretty hungry and started looking for some groceries. I tucked them into a jug and watched until the baby had her belly full and settled in for a well deserved nap.

Another Mull carbon copy! We will have plenty of flashy grey sheep. I love grey! It is pretty as a natural color and when over dyed with color it gets an unusual and interesting depth to the color in a tweedy sort of look.

My favorite markings are the backs of the ears! Eye spots. Warning coloration; "I can see you with the eyes I have in the back of my head!" Faola is best pleased.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Deja's Lambs

Deja had her lambs this morning!

This cute little guy,

And this sweet little girl.


They have crazy facial markings and will likely modify to grey, like their daddy. Dark grey would be nice! Names will be forthcoming.

Ladyburn continues to grow and charm us with her grace.

It's a hard job. Must take more naps!



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Playing Catch-up and Introducing Ladyburn

For some reason there are fewer hours in the day during summer, or so it seems. How can there be so many more things to cram into the day during the summer than the winter? We have been busy with all manner of small things here it seems and it has been tricky to catch a breath.

Baseball is done for this summer and Duncan is eagerly looking forward to next season. He had a great time and did a good job. I learned a lot about baseball in the process and ignored Will laughing at my ignorance for the most part. Sam is playing soccer through the end of July and Will is the assistant coach. The ages of players on this team is from 10-18! No disasters have happened to date between big giant kids and smaller ones (fingers crossed). The field is so darn big I can't get any decent photos!

Lila again went to the AuthorQuest writers camp and received the Anton Chekov award for short story writing. She was asked to come back and was pretty geeked about it all. She made some new friends and hooked up with some from last year too.

We went downstate for a family reunion, which was a lot of fun, and I met up with some cousins I haven't seen for ages (so long ago we couldn't remember meeting each other); this can happen when your mother is the youngest of 12 children! Below is a photo of my mother, my brother and I, and all our kids.

Someone caught a good brother-sister moment! :)

Then, Will's sister Mary met up with us to transfer her wee dog Leta to our care for the five days she was taking some teacher training at MSU in East Lansing. After her training, Mary spent another five days at our house spoiling us all. :) I managed to get a few pictures of Leta, but only one crazy picture of Mary which she might not appreciate being posted. This dog visit of course has led to increased kid requests for company for Grace. I'm not sure we are ready yet...

Mull's February trysts into the non-breeder pen are coming to fruition this week! Nala gave birth this morning to a beautiful white ewe lamb we have named "Ladyburn" in keeping with the single malt scotch theme this year.

She's beautiful with her wee pink nose.

(Nala says to go away)

She's a keeper.

Next up: the Ewe-per Fiber Fair is this Saturday and there is much work to be done to set up for it. I'm in charge of the vendors (and I am a vendor too) so will be at the school all day Friday and Saturday (and will crash Saturday evening). The next non-rainy day after the fair will be sheep pedicures, worming and dressing up in coats. I've ordered some tiny ones for the lambs. Next Tuesday Lila will be cutting off her long thick mane of hair and swapping for a stylish hair in he eyes type of cut from a salon. I think her hair might end up a bit curlier than it is now so it will be neat to see how the style turns out. I've talked her down from the dying the tips of the hair blue for now. (Shades of my latter teens appearing here!).

And.....two more ewes to lamb.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

July "Surprises"

I think I have identified July's "surprise" lambers....much easier after the coats and fleeces come off!

Deja is already bagging up and looking like twins are on the menu again. I didn't get a photo of Nala, but she too is filling up her udder and her belly.

"Hey, what about me Mom? " Well, yes, Faola it does appear that you too will have a lamb soon." I'm keeping my fingers crossed it is a small single since she is just a year old herself! She and Mull share the same sire so I'm very interested in seeing how this goes. Should be a lovely lamb.

I think that is it! It could have been a lot phew!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rhubarb 'kinda day

First thing after the animals were fed, the kids and I went to harvest the rhubarb.

I did the stalk cutting and leaf whacking, while the three wee beasties did what they do best.





Make weird faces and voices!

I did get some help chopping, mixing, and sampling.

We ended up with two and a half pints of Rhubarb-Ginger butter (sweetened with our maple syrup), four and a half pints of Orange-Rhubarb butter, and one pint of lemon curd (that has nothing to do with rhubarb but I have four pounds of fresh organic lemons to use up and thought I'd try my hand at it). There is also enough rhubarb and organic strawberries to make at least three strawberry-rhubarb pies; one for Father's Day and two for the freezer. I love squirreling away produce!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Unexpected Events and Sad Farewells.

The past twenty four hours have been full of surprises in and amongst the scheduled events.

Yesterday we planned to take the alpacas out to their pasture down the road after deworming them. We wormed everyone and then lured about half of them into the trailer. I had planned, upon arrival, to get in the trailer with them and spray them down with fly spray before letting them loose. I forgot though, and just opened the door and watched them sail out into a sea of green. The last alpaca out, Paja Rita (little bird) had a huge triangular gash in her side that I saw as she exited the trailer. Had I got in and done the fly spray I would have noticed this! So here we were with an alpaca we needed to catch on two acres of open field. Not good. We decided to go back for the remaining alpacas and a llama (Llilith this year), and then try again. The divider in the trailer had a piece of sheet metal at the very bottom that sticks out a little and it could be what she cut herself on, so I covered the divider with a heavy blanket. Amazingly, we only had to chase her once across the pasture and I managed to snag her (adrenaline out of fear I'd never get her). Home she came and I called the vet. Fortunately our favorite vet, Dr. Tom, was out doing farm calls in our general neck of the woods so he and their current Vet student on rotation (Jessie I believe) were able to come by and stitch her up.

Paja Rita was knocked out and locally anesthetized for the procedure which took about an hour. She had her tetanus booster and antibiotics as well. She popped right out of it and has been taking it easy today and won't be joining the rest of the herd for a couple of weeks until we take her stitches out. There are two llamas here so she isn't alone with just the sheep.

CeCe and Waters have been in our lives for a long time; and in fact have been a part of our family before the human children arrived. CeCe came to us through a shelter at age 3 and we found Waters along I-75 with a broken leg as a puppy. CeCe would have been 12 in August, which is old for a Newf. She had developed spine and hindquarter issues that have plagued her the past two years and we have been managing them with pain meds, chiropractic adjustments and injections. She was finding it hard these past couple of weeks to move from her favorite spot and was in obvious distress. Waters was 15 and a half years old. He lost his hearing a couple of years ago, had cataracts, a heart murmur and congestive heart failure. He had occasional seizures which were very frightening for him and all of us as well. He was very confused and having a hard time using his hind legs as well. We had decided that it was time for us to let them go to a pain free place despite our knowing our hearts would ache with their loss. It was just too hard to watch them. We had an appointment scheduled with Dr. Tom at the clinic, but decided since he was here that this was probably easier on the dogs. So CeCe and Waters were both euthanized painlessly just outside our back door in a familiar place with lots of pats and kisses from their family and kind words from Dr.Tom and Jessie.

A very wee wren with her dogs.

Just as Will had lowered the dogs into their grave, our sheep shearer pulled in the drive. He graciously puttered around while we did a small eulogy and Will filled in the grave. Our sheep were to be shorn first thing in the morning so Dave showed up the night before which we love so we can have a couple of beers and chat. That felt good after a rather challenging day. Will and Sam also had to skip soccer practice with the alpaca emergency.


So the sheep were shorn at 7:00 am and we were done by 10:30. Many of the fleeces were not in the rise which makes shearing more difficult and the sheep look a bit choppy. Odd for June 11th! You would think physiologically they'd be ready to be done with all that wool. One of the Babydolls was grotesquely obese and then we have chronically skeletal Amey on the other end of the scale. Otherwise it was as expected; Wethers are chubby, open ewes in good condition (most of them), and the breeders a bit on the lean side with lamb demands. I took more pictures, but this is my favorite with Fancy. :). She is still looking good.

I noted two for sure bred ewes from Mull's fence jumping experiment. Both Nala and Deja have big bellies and are starting to develop udders. I suspect that Liz and Faola are also bred probably with single lambs. We should see these summer surprises anywhere from July 7-15th.

Will is just arriving home soaked from putting the alpaca shelter up in the rain. Because of the emergency it just didn't get done. He is a kind and generous man. I am just about to put a hot supper on the table and I'll bet he goes to bed early! We are hoping for a low key weekend....


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Naked Alpacas

Last Wednesday (almost a week ago for goodness sake!), Bio-Secure Alpacas came to shear all the camelids. 22 alpacas and three llamas. It was a sight to witness I tell you!


The four twenty-something's worked with balletic precision and fluidity. It was rather amazing.

John and Soleil

John is the master shearer and he worked as a team with a young apprentice. He did the main shearing, taking off the blanket (the best spinning fiber) and the neck and upper shoulders. He also shaped the tail and the leg fiber. Most of the leg fiber is left on the animals to protect them from biting insects.

The apprentice is responsible for holding the head of the animal while the master shearer does his thing. Fiona was very unhappy about the whole thing and spent most of the time screaming and spitting. It is disgusting stuff and smells like a mixture of fermented tobacco juice and rancid baby poo. These guys were stoic, believe me.

John, Noah and Peggy Sue
Lady Tamar

The other two crew members were responsible for trimming toes, giving shots, grinding teeth, and trimming up the fiber on the belly and sides.

Overlong teeth were ground with a masonry bit. This tool has a protective plate over the bit with the dentition of a camelid cut out of it. The plate protects the mouth while the bit grinds the teeth through the u shaped opening. It took seconds, so didn't appear to be over stressful. It stank like drilled teeth!

We had some llama drama with Igraine of course. She decided that she would get up when she was good and ready, which incidentally was when Will got out some alpaca feed.


The finished product, on the hoof, is nice and cool. They will be transported today to their digs down the road and be treated to lush green grass. That means Will and I have an afternoon of wrangling and shoving and cajoling to do to get them there. There are bags and bags of fiber to sort through as well. This year I did NOT save every scrap as second cuts.....all that short stuff went a big pile which was stuffed into feed bags and will be mixed with straw as warm bedding for the winter months. The shearers were impressed because they say that most people save every but and let it sit in dusty bags for years in their barns or basements....not I....we have not the room and apparently I have realized I can't possible spin or sell everything we have! They will enjoy the bedding too.

Oh and the sheep shearer comes tomorrow, so after moving the alpacas the sheep all have to be convinced they need to be in the barn, including the wayward lambs who have just been introduced to the main flock. I have to admit that I am looking forward to the relative silence of sheep shearing after the screaming chaos of alpaca shearing. We too appreciate David's company and catching up with him. Hopefully he will show up this evening for a few beers and we will start first thing tomorrow morning.