Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A shocking discovery, and a small surprise

Shocking! That was the first word that sprung to mind when I discovered the truth about the nun with the llama!

I had been interested in perhaps purchasing a little fiber from the gentle ladies of the convent, thinking that they, of all people, would not lie about the quality of the fiber, and that it would help with their good works, whatever those might be. So, I did a little Google searching for the nun, or the monk, and their llamas. I found an article in an Iowa online paper, so I read that, and then I did a little more searching and....***GASP***!!!

It's not a real abbey or monastery!! AND, the guy who runs it, is a felon!! Can you believe it!!

It's all right here!

Now, here is the website of the abbey/monastery:

Soooo, it's true that they do raise llamas, and we did see them at the show, and they may well have very nice fiber. It also appears, however, that the gentleman (if I dare call him that) running the operation is a rather shady character, who not only has a history of run-ins with the law, but who is now operating an almost cult-like organization that apparently preys on older, single women, encouraging them to join his "flock." He is not recognized by the Catholic Church, and in fact the church has put out warnings about him! And to think I was sitting not 10 feet from this man! Good heavens! You can learn more by doing a Google search on Holy Rosary Abbey in Galesburg, Illinois.

Well, lest you be concerned that all has been chaos since I discovered this alarming news, I can assure you it is not, and things carry on around the farm. For example, take a look at this picture: one of these eggs is not like the others....

Those of you with chicken experience may notice that today, we had our first "hiccup" egg. This is a name given to very tiny eggs laid by otherwise normal sized egg laying chickens. Here's a picture of our hiccup egg with a regular sized egg and a regular bantam egg.
There is no special explanation for hiccup eggs - they just happen from time to time!

I cracked it open and, as usual for hiccup eggs, it didn't have a full, proper yolk, although it had a bit of yolk material. I thought about people who "read" tea leaves left behind in mugs, and wondered if there are people who "read" yolks?!

The rest of the eggs today were all normal, of course. We don't expect hiccup eggs often! Kelly made some lovely crepes for dessert tonight with the normal sized eggs. Thank you Chef!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

2009 Heartland Classic Llama Show (the virtual version!)

Today we went to our first llama show - not to show our own llamas, but to watch and learn from others. What a great time! Most of the llamas today were mini llamas, which were awfully cute! I took a lot of pictures, so this post is a bit picture heavy, but I want to bring the show to you as if you were there!!

First, we watched some of the show classes. I can't tell you which ones these are - there were many! But, all the llamas were beautiful. The judge was from Kentucky and she was very helpful in explaining her choices and saying what she was looking for. There were a number of different shearing patterns (or unsheared looks). I took photographs of some of my favorite llamas. I loved the colour of this one! It has the regular "barrel cut" shearing like ours do.

This cute little llama has a sort of barrel cut "plus" shearing, with a pom pom on its rear end for the tail area!Then this one isn't sheared at all!

We were interested to see a nun with her llama who was participating in the show. The nun's llama placed but I can't remember what the placing was.

After the regular classes, the obstacle course showing began! I didn't know they had obstacle courses for llamas, but it was great fun to watch and we could see that some llamas were much more adept at the sort of training required for obstacles than others.

The first obstacle was a jump. Many llamas, like the beautiful appaloosa below, just kicked the beam down and walked through. Oops!
The best jumper was the nun's llama - what a leap (of faith?)!

After the jump there was a ramp up and down, and then some pool noodles hanging from a frame. The llama had to walk under the frame and let the pool noodles just touch its back. Most of them did that without difficulty. You can see the ramp in this picture but since we were sitting in front of the pool noodle thing, I didn't take ramp pictures because you couldn't really see it well.

The next obstacle was a large tire. The llama was supposed to put its front feet inside the middle of the tire, and keep its back feet outside the tire. The person leading them was supposed to make them go all the way around the tire, so that their back legs would do the moving while the front feet would just sort of pivot within the inside of the tire.
This llama wasn't nearly as cooperative.
The nun's llama would not do the tire trick, even though she was very encouraging with it.

Then the llamas had to back up along an L-shaped set up of logs, turning the corner at the bottom of the "L" while staying in a backward position. This llama did it very well. You can see the judge taking notes in the background.
Then there was a section with two logs placed in a wide V-shape at the corner of the arena. The llamas were supposed to face the audience and move sideways along the first log, and then shift slightly and move sideways along the next log, all the while keeping their front feet on one side of the log, and their back feet on the other side. The llama below did it best.
Then there is a jump through a hoop - there were some beautiful jumpers!

After the hoop jump there was a staircase, which they had to go up, walk across the top flat area, and then go down the other side.
Many jumped from the top and sort of skipped the down steps. I had a nice action shot of this one!
Some llamas didn't like the steps at all, and this one in particular had quite enough of them, so he just lay down in the middle, much to the crowd's amusement.
The final obstacle was a fairly shallow water tray, with a few bits of foam stuff floating in it. The llamas were supposed to go through the water - it would have been only just over their feet. Many of the llamas refused to go through it, even the nun's llama. If any of the llamas should have been comfortable walking on water, shouldn't it have been the nun's?

After watching the obstacle course, we went into the barns to check out some of the llamas who were waiting their turn in the show ring. There were so many beautiful animals, and I could not photograph them all, but here are some that caught my eye.

This one just oozed "Llama Diva" to me.

This llama had a very heavy shearing including its whole neck. It had a blanket AND a human sweatshirt on it. Today was a bit chilly compared to yesterday's beautiful day. I couldn't help but laugh at this poor llama
Most of the llamas had these nice mats to lie on to keep them warm. Look at that cute little one in the back! So adorable!
A very handsome llama with a nice groom and cut.
And probably my favourite llama - what a sweet face!
Well, I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of the Heartland Classic llama show. Oh, and the most amazing thing about the show....we didn't come home with any new llamas!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Eights - a break from lambing posts!

I saw this on the Goats in the Garden blog and I thought it looked like fun, so I did it! Feel free to do it on your own blog if you'd like! I had to modify the last category a little bit.

Hopefully I'll be blogging soon about KitKat's lambs, but until then, here are some lists of 8 things.

8 Things I’m Looking Forward To
1. My parents visiting in May!
2. My exams being finished for this semester
3. Seeing which of our young fruit trees planted last year bear fruit this year
4. More time for gardening this summer because I’m not taking any classes
5. Finishing building our new barn.
6. Finishing the new fencing for our pasture layout
7. Spinning roving from my very own sheep
8. Being finished part-time law school (in 2 years)

8 Things I Did Yesterday
1. Cuddled with the new lambs, especially Bramble, because she’s so little!
2. Cuddled with Luna
3. Collected eggs
4. Enjoyed a 6-course meal at our local culinary school’s gourmet dinner series
5. Sat for 5 minutes with Scrimshaw and Sketch, 2 of my favorite hens, on my lap, in the sunshine
6. Walked around the garden to look for spring flowers and found miniature irises blooming
7. Completed an assignment for one of my classes
8. Made egg custard with some of my extra eggs

8 Things I Wish I Could Do
1. Have more time to spend in my garden
2. Build a beautiful grape and rose arbor (one of these days...)
3. Buy more land so I could have more sheep
4. Have more time for hand spinning wool
5. Live closer to my parents
6. Resist the temptation of eating too much pasta
7. Rescue all the farm animals that need to be rescued
8. Grow zone 7 plants in my zone 5 garden

8 Shows I Watch (I have changed this to 8 shows that I used to watch or have watched in the past, since I do not watch any television now)
1. Boston Legal (haven’t watched it in about 2 years though)
2. Desperate Housewives (liked it at first but then it just got too silly)
3. Ground Force (but it wasn’t as good after Alan left)
4. City Gardener
5. All Creatures Great and Small (when I was younger and it was on PBS)
6. Party of Five
7. Antiques Road Show (off and on)
8. Are You Being Served? (off and on)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clover Delivers Twins....Claire Takes Pictures!!

Yesterday was a very exciting day for us! I got up early to head off to school, since I had class at 7:40 am. I went outside, as is my usual practice, just to ensure all was well in the farmyard. I just do a quick check on my early class days, and Kelly follows up later with feeding everybody. Well, I immediately noticed that Clover was in the shelter, instead of out with the rest of the flock, so I climbed the fence to take a closer look at her. Sure enough, her babies had dropped low in her belly, and she had a little mucus showing, which is a sign of labor. In the picture below, you can see her hip bones protruding and leaving her upper body looking hollowed out - a definite sign!

I ran inside and changed out of my school clothes and into barnyard clothes, sent a quick email to say I wouldn't be at school, and rushed back out with the camera. This would be the first birth that we would actually witness first hand, since Bianca and Oreo both lambed when we were not watching. I also made a coffee and put it into a travel mug, so I could sit out there waiting for her to start the actual lambing process. Off I went, into a clear blue morning, sun shining, but wow, it was chilly! Only 3 C (which is 37 for my Fahrenheit readers), so I was glad for that warm coffee!

When I came back out, there wasn't much change, so I figured it might be a while. I sat on the old cable spool that we have in the pen and watched Clover wander around, lie down, get up, stare at her back end, lie down again, get up again, bleat at her back end, etc. She finally lay down for about 20 minutes in the shelter, so I went over to chat with her. She let me rub her neck and she just lay there looking huge. After I got up from petting her, she got up too, and that's when the water sac emerged.

Meanwhile, Kelly had hastily put on his barnyard gear and was feeding the other animals. He put out some hay for the mini goats and other sheep in the pen with Clover. I had read that usually animals in labor don't want to eat. Ha! Not so with Clover. She ran over, with her little water sac hanging behind her, as if it were any other normal day.

She ate for a few minutes and then I noticed a new sac emerging. I am new to this whole sheep birth thing. I didn't realize that the first sac (which had reddish color fluid) would be different from the second one (which had cloudy but non colored fluid).
Kelly and I sat against the south wall of the barn, watching, because it was the warmest spot. Now we really know why the sheep and goats like to hang out in that spot all winter!

Anyway, we now know that the second sac was a sign of imminent birth, because from within the sac, we suddenly saw hooves!! The little hoof tips kept poking out, then going back inside. Poking out again, going back inside. You can see them in the picture below, just coming out.
Clover was eating the whole time. It was like she could not make up her mind...."Gee, do I eat, or do I give birth....I think I'll just eat.....oh wait, maybe I have to give birth.....nah....I'll just eat.....oh, maybe I don't have a choice in this matter...."

Suddenly, the head was out, but Clover just kept on eating. Slowly, her first little lamb emerged, and Clover did not stop eating until the lamb was on the ground.

Suddenly she kicked into high gear, licking and tending to her lamb.
We moved in with a clean towel to help dry off the lamb because of the cold wind, and we moved the lamb down to the side of the barn where it was protected and warm. Clover gladly followed. Meanwhile, a second sac had emerged....

All the time the second birth was starting, Clover continued to tend to the first lamb, who by now we had determined was a little brown ewe lamb. I have named her Bramble. Somebody else had a sweet little lamb named Bramble, and I can't remember whose blog it is, but I think it's an adorable name, so I'm afraid I borrowed it!
The chocolate brown color in Icelandic sheep terminology is referred to as "moorit" and the father was moorit, so we knew there was a chance of that. Since I am interested in their fleece for spinning, I like to have different colours in the flock, so I was excited to see a moorit lamb. We began to get concerned because the little lamb was shivering, and we wanted to get Clover and her lambs inside the barn to the lambing "jug" (a term for a small enclosure used for a ewe and her newborn lambs to encourage the bonding between mother and lambs, and to protect them).

We could see that Clover was really struggling with the second lamb. She was pushing and pushing and her mouth was open and I was starting to worry that there was a problem. But, then, with a few tremendous pushes from Clover, out popped a little black ram lamb.
Kelly took a moment as a proud shepherd to enjoy the new additions to our flock!
We rushed all 3 inside, because it was clear that Clover was finished lambing. We weighed the lambs. The little ewe was a mere 4 lb 1 oz. Her big brother was 8 lb 7 oz. What a difference! Her brother was immediately active and starting to investigate the udder! It didn't take him long to start nursing. The ewe on the other hand, was shivering and not trying to nurse. We tried to help out, and let me tell you, it's a bit of a trick to be holding a lamb, opening its mouth, steadying the mother sheep, and trying to put her teat in the lamb's mouth, all at the same time. Clover kept pushing my hand away with her back leg, and of course the little brother lamb was always in the way.

We got out our handy book about lamb problems and established that she was probably too chilled to have the sucking instinct kick in, so we set about warming her up. She was toweled, rubbed, scrubbed, re-toweled, re-rubbed, and was probably getting tired of being messed with! She stopped shivering, but still wasn't interested in sucking. So, Kelly went in to the house to get a bottle with a lamb nipple on it and I hand milked Clover a little bit, into the bottle. It's really important for lambs to get the colostrum from their mother in the first 30 to 60 minutes after birth, since after that, the ability of the lamb's digestive system to absorb the antibodies present in the colostrum drops significantly.

The little ewe took to the bottle quite easily, and once she had some of that, she began to perk up and show interest in the udder. Fairly soon, she was nursing well, and she has continued to do so, much to our relief.

Here's the little ram, whom Kelly has named "Sven" because it sounds sort of Icelandic. He has really big horn buds. He also has the "sugar lips" trait that suggests he will have some grey coloring to his fleece and not be all black.

Bramble has a tiny light coloured patch to the inside of her right eye, but is otherwise all the same colour. This might show that she carries the spotting gene, even though she does not express it in the form of white spots.Both lambs have such curly fleeces, I just want to touch them all the time! They are both doing fabulously well and we'll be taking more pictures soon!

Just one pregnant Icelandic ewe remains - the oh-so-large KitKat. No doubt, she'll have her turn in the next few days.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Oreo Operates on Her Own Schedule!

Having just done a post about how my ewes were due in 9 days, Oreo decided to take matters into her own hands (feet?) and basically give a little sneer at my famous calendar of due dates. She had 2 darling little ram lambs this morning, both white with black spots. Technically, they are black with white spots, but that's a genetics thing that I don't want to get into here, so you can just trust me on that one.

Being Sunday, we slept in a little later than usual and had a lazy morning, partly because we had been to an auction last night to benefit the Des Moines Area Community College's Culinary Arts program. We like the program and we enjoy the dinner series that they put on, so we are on the committee that does this auction fund raiser so that they can send students to France in their final year to do a study with a French chef. Then they bring the French chefs over in January for a couple of weeks here to work with all the students. It's a great opportunity for them. Here's how handsome Kelly looked as we headed out last evening. Aren't I a lucky gal! He's handsome, he's very handy, and he makes great pies and bread. What else is there?!

Anyway, we had a slow morning and when we finally went out to the sheep pen, there were two little lambs running around! Oreo must have had them early this morning. They weighed 8 lb 9 oz...
... and 6 lb 1 oz...
... so reasonably good weights. The smaller one was a little less active initially but seems to be fine now.

Kelly hasn't named them yet - he gets to name the boy animals and I name the girls, so we're waiting while he decides on names. Meanwhile I just love cuddling with them and touching their soft curly fleece. Welcome to our new boys, and thanks for being a good mom, Oreo!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ewes Are Getting Close!

I thought I'd blog today about my pregnant ewes. As Corinne of Crosswinds Farm says, sometimes you just want to go out there and squeeze them to see if that helps them along! Oreo and Clover are due on, or about, April 27. Kitkat is due on or about May 2.

All three of them were bred to "Thunder" and he is a hunk of ram love! Check him out!
What a handsome guy! Just look at that fleece! Dreamy!
Thunder lives on Hedge Apple Farm here in Iowa, which is where we bought Oreo, KitKat and Clover. We are pretty excited to see what fleece colors we get from Thunder's lambs!

Oreo looks like she might go first. She is already very milky. Her udder is very lopsided though. Poor girl!
I hope she will fill out on the other side enough to provide enough milk for her lambs. Last year she had quads! I just learned that yesterday from Lorraine, her former owner. I wonder what she will have this year. Here she is from the side.

KitKat is as big as a house, but she'll be the last to go because she has the later due date. Luna really enjoys hanging around with KitKat - I'm not sure why! Based on KitKat and Thunder's color, I suspect we will have some lovely moorit lambs if we are lucky! Moorit is the brown color that KitKat has.

Here's Kitkat with Lotus the Nigerian dwarf goat to her left, Coffee the mini-Nubian to her right, and Luna behind her. Everybody's enjoying the hay. You can really see how round KitKat's belly is in this picture!
Here's Clover, our dalmatian sheep! Well, she looks like one to me! She is looking pretty wide, and her udder is huge. Bianca's lambs, Calypso and Clipper, are happy to hang around with Clover too. Look at that lamb bump on her right side! Wow!
Here's Clover having a chat with Kelly! We had to put up some fine plastic mesh because the lambs and Luna were going through the cattle panel squares. Naughty girls!
I'll be sure to post with lamb pictures - hopefully in 9 days!