Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can we have a Goat Olympics too?


Oh!  Was that too loud?  I just wanted to make sure I had everybody's attention.  I am Opal, and I'm a Nigerian Dwarf goat and I was elected to be spokesgoat for us.  We goats here on Whispering Acres have heard, from our lady, that there was a goat Olympics going on at "The Maaaaa of Pricilla".  On the whole, we goats think this is an excellent idea for us to showcase our skills and athleticism, but on the other hand, we felt that the field was a bit narrow, seeing as it was all goats from just one farm.  We think that in order for it to be a proper Olympics, there need to be multiple farms competing.  I mean, it has to be fair, right?  Anyway, here is another picture of me, your spokesgoat and commentator for the events.  My lady says I am very pretty so she said I could have an extra photo.

We don't have any dirt eating goats like they did at Pricilla's blog, in part because our ground is completely and entirely covered with snow.  Some goats eat snow too.  You should go and see Isobelle giving snow kisses on her blog.  That should be a gold medal performance!  Nonetheless, we have an entry for the sun basking competition that we do believe is medal worthy.  This is Coffee the mini-Nubian.  She is pregnant, but not due until April.  Still, she needs her sun time because it's tiring being pregnant.  You can see how the sun glints on her fur and makes her look so pretty.  Kind of coffee coloured too!   Well done Coffee!!  (insert cheering goats here in background).  We think this merits the silver at least.

Moving to the wide earspan competition, Coffee is certainly the gold medal winner.  I also entered and I got a silver, which is lovely because I like pretty things, and I don't mind coming in second place.  Here is Coffee with her winning stance.  Tremendous stretch and span on those ears.  What a stellar performance.

Here I am doing my earspan, and I know it's not as wide as Coffee's, but I am a smaller goat and so I have smaller ears.  I did it in front of the bucket so you could see that my earspan is as wide as the bucket.  That is pretty impressive really.  There were no earspan contestants at Pricilla's blog, so we awarded ourselves gold and silver.

Now, for the true Winter Goat Olympics feeling, we have the Synchronized Standing in a Snowstorm competition.  Here are Coffee and Puffin doing their part on this wild winter event, showing the true stamina and endurance of goat athletes.  That's Val behind them - he is an angora and couldn't care less about snow, so he is their coach, cheering them on.  Well done ladies!  Gold medals to both of you!!

Moving along, we come to the final and most exciting event.  Our lady and our man brought us some corn stems and leaves for bedding material.  They thought we would like to sleep on it.  Not to be mean to them, but what were they thinking?  We don't want to sleep on it!  We want to EAT it!  So today, we have the Team Corn Stalk competition as our final event.  This is a picture of me practicing.

Here's Puffin doing her practice run.  She's very enthusiastic.

And they're off!  Oh look at this action shot, such a dedicated team!  That's Puffin on the far left, Lotus in the middle, and me on the right.  Heads down, dig into the corn stalks, FOCUS!!

Lotus and Puffin are so good at sticking their whole heads in there, and they didn't leave much room, so I was kind of off to the side, but I was eating too.  So anyway, we think this is a gold medal performance of course, but we think we can also improve for next year.

I hope you enjoyed the Whispering Acres Goat Olympics.  We sure did!  We needed something to take the attention off those lambs who are being so ridiculously slow to put in their appearance.  How rude.  We are much more entertaining.  Congratulations to all our winners.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stormy Moves Outside!

Today was a big day for Stormy the cria.  He finally moved outside into a small pasture with his mom, Dolly Llama.

He was born on January 20, so he's been inside the barn in a stall for over a month.  It's been really cold here - our temperatures have been well below normal for several weeks.  Now, the weather is finally starting to go back to "normal" and while that's still cold, it's not as cold outside as it has been inside the barn some nights, so I was confident he could go outside.

It was quite an operation to get him moved because Dolly doesn't want to move unless he's by her side.  Once she was on a lead, he followed, but then upon going outside, he wanted to explore around, and he would prance off to one side, leaving Dolly on the lead making her little whining noises.  Once she saw her llama friends, she was excited to reunite with them, but it was important to keep her with Stormy until he's a little older.  He could get butted and hurt by the sheep or goats, so he's in a small fenced area with Dolly where they have their own personal shelter.

He ran around in the snow and explored, but always went back to her side, which was great to see.  They have really bonded closely.  He kept sticking his nose into the snow and then pulling back, as if to say "Hey, that's cold!" but then he'd do it again!  I think it will take some time for him to learn that snow is cold every time you stick your nose into it!  You can definitely see that he's her son!  He really took her colouring.

Leslie is still holding out for warmer weather.  No lambs were born today.

The chickens enjoyed the sun, which has been conspicuously absent lately.  They enjoy sitting on top of the chest freezers that we use in the barn to store bags of feed.  They're not plugged in, but they are certainly mouse-proof, which is a great way for us to safely store bags of feed without encouraging mice families to move into the bags!

The ducks gathered around to bask in the sun too, but then the sun moved, and the ducks didn't.  A lot of them have black streaks on them because they insist on hanging about underneath the tractor, where there is a copious amount of grease and oil.  Silly ducks.

Finally, a short update on the barn building.  It's come a long way this week, with the overhang being installed all the way around the barn on three sides.  Here you can see it on 2 sides, but it's also on the front, which is facing away.
The back of the barn has a lean-to built onto it, which will become a large chicken coop.  You can see in the picture below that the roof on the lean-to is installed, but not the roof on the main barn.  That should happen this coming week.  It's exciting to watch the progress and know that it will be a great shelter for our animals in the future.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's All in the Udder

Today I thought I'd do a little blog about my potential upcoming lambs.  I'm getting a bit antsy about it all.  After all, this will be only my second year of lambing.  Here's the run-down.

In November, I purchased 7 blue-faced Leicester ewes and two rams from Zephyr Sheep Farm.  They're wonderful sheep.  All 7 of the ewes were potentially bred, because they had been with the rams from September 11 to October 16 of 2009.  I decided, after receiving them, that I would put them back in with the rams "just in case" any had not ended up being bred in the fall.  One of the 7 had a very clear marking on Dec 1, so I assume that she wasn't bred in the fall round.  That left me with 6 BFL ewes to lamb in February or March.

Sheep gestation is roughly 145 days. Based on the gestation calculator, I determined that if a ewe were bred on the first or last day:
  • Earliest possible lambing date: Feb 4
  • Latest possible lambing date: March 11
Now here we are at Feb 25. Of the 6, I have 4 ewes showing udder development, and 2 not at all, I don't think.

According to the Zephyr Sheep Farm blog , Leslie was bred around September 21. I think that marking was an unsuccessful attempt because a September 21 breeding should have been roughly a February 14  lambing and she has not lambed.  But, I think she is due to lamb pretty soon, because here is her udder.  It's the biggest of the bunch.

The blog says Black Pearl and Assyria didn't show breeding marks (i.e. after Sept. 25 when Carol stopped using the marking stuff on her rams).  Assyria shows no udder development whatsoever, and I am not sure if she is pregnant at all.  Here is Black Pearl's udder - what do you think?  Do you think she looks pregnant?  I am just not sure.  The latest she could lamb would be March 11 - I would have expected more development by now.

My other "maybe" is Corsica.  She should have been bred in the fall but here is her udder, which doesn't look like much to me.  I doubt that she was bred then....what do you think?  You can actually see a teat sort of pointing to the left but there isn't much "udder" to go along with it.

Sloan was marked in "late September" but Carol didn't write the date down...but, a September 30 breeding should have been Feb 23 lambing, in other words, 2 days ago. I do think Sloan is pregnant though - here is her udder.  She wouldn't stay still for me, but she looks to be due fairly soon.  She's a little smaller than Leslie.

Carol actually saw Alystyne being bred on October 5 (which would imply lambing on Feb 28).  Strangely, she has the smallest udder of the 3 "big udder" girls.  But Februarly 28 is only 3 days away...  Here's Alystyne's udder.

So, at the moment, I see udder development on Leslie, Sloan and Alystyne, and possibly Black Pearl.  I suspect Paisley, Corsica and Assyria were not bred on the fall round, but I hope they were in the second round after they arrived here.

In theory, that means I should have 4 sets of lambs between now and March 11, the last date according to when the rams were separated. However, all of the "official" dates are passed, except Feb 28, and Alystyne doesn't look like she is that far along. So overall, I'm really confused and wondering what is going on.  I wish I had an ultrasound, but they're a good $4000 or so to buy. Argh.

Well, in other news, Stormy finally had his coat taken off and here he is today.  What a handsome youngster!  At the moment his fleece is darker than Mom and Dad's fleeces, but maybe he will lighten with age.
What a sweet face!
I'd love to hear from any of my experienced sheep readers on their thoughts on my sheeps' udders.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


In an effort to make the time pass while I'm waiting for Leslie to have her lambs, I'm happy to play a game of tag with City Chicken Farm. I enjoy reading her blog and seeing her progress with chickens - not so long ago that I was still new to chickens in my life!  She's also inspiring me to clean up my composting area and get serious with it!

Anyway, this is one of those fun little tag things and the rules are:

  • Answer the questions with one word.
  • Have fun!
  • Tag 5 other blogs  (Well, this rule is made for breaking.  If you like reading my blog, feel free to snag this little tag game for your own blog.  I love reading lots of blogs and they are listed at the side and bottom of my blog, so it's hard to pick just 5.)

Your Cell Phone?   Red

Your Hair?   messy

Your Mother?   Tremendous

Your Father?   Inspiring

Your Favorite Food?   cheese

Your Dream Last Night?   dream?

Your Favorite Drink?   Riesling

Your Dream/Goal?   balance

What Room Are You In?   office

Your Hobby?   spinning

Your Fear?   flying

Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years?   mellowed

Where Were You Last Night?   home

Something That You Aren't?   religious

Muffins?   cranberry

Wish List Item?   alpaca

Where Did You Grow Up?   Canada

Last Thing You Did?   yawn

What Are You Wearing?   pajamas

Your TV?   unused

Your Pets?   loved

Friends?   valued

Your Life?   busy

Your Mood?   resigned

Missing Someone?   parents

Vehicle?   Jetta

Something You Aren't Wearing?   watch

Your Favorite Store?   Ikea

Your Favorite Color?   green

When Was The Last Time You Laughed?   dunno

Last Time You Cried?   sad

Your Best Friend?   Distant

One Place You Go To Over And Over Again?   School

Facebook?   relaxing

Twitter?   rarely

Favorite Place To Eat?   Mom's

Some of those were harder than I expected to answer with just one word! 
Back to the grind...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Still no lambs

Leslie, my blue-faced Leicester, is clearly not giving birth because she is holding a grudge.  I don't know what I did, or did not do, but she is holding it against me.  That is evidently the only excuse.  Her udder is huge, her official due date was Tuesday, and today was a snow storm (typical time to give birth).  All the signs say it should have been today.  She is doing this just to irritate me - I can tell.

In my desperate longing for lambs, I stumbled upon this blog, which was new to me...
Clearly, I have my next knitting project cut out for me. 

The back end of the barn was finished today, but they must have left early due to the snow storm that whirled in.  Now we have a good 4-6 inches of new snow in the yard.  Yes, because we needed new snow.  Kind of like a hamster needs a cell phone.

We've been trying to trap the possum, so far without success.  Tonight, he killed two more chickens.  I'm getting very upset with said possum.  His cuteness factor is rapidly diminishing.  I'm not at all pleased about losing my only frizzle/silkie cross rooster.  He was very handsome and friendly.

If you can't tell so far, I'm having a bit of a bad day.  Here's hoping the weekend is better...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Barn Building and other general news

I'm behind on blogging I'm afraid.  It's been really busy around here and, remarkably, I've been watching a little TV.  I don't normally watch television at all, but I confess that I do enjoy a bit of Olympic action!  I generally prefer the winter Olympics to the summer, because I find the sporting events rather more exciting in winter.  I'm not very interested in team sports, but I enjoy individual sports, like the speed skating, the figure skating, the luge and bobsled, the snowboarding, the biathlon....well, pretty much all of it except hockey.  With the Olympics being in Canada, my homeland, this year, it's particularly exciting for me.  So, here I am with a blog post of the latest bits of news from here...

1.  Barn Building
I hired a local building contractor to put up the barn that I had purchased from Craig's List.  I was getting frustrated waiting for it to be constructed and so I decided to just bite the proverbial bullet and get it built.  I'm pleased that I did so, because it's going up with some speed now, and despite the dreadful mess that this has made of the yard, I think it was worth it.  Here it was this morning:

And here it was this afternoon:  (the other end is partly finished but you can't see it in this picture).

You can see the posts around the sides where the overhang will be installed later.  There is a lean-to that goes on one end also.  Once the barn is finished on the outside, Kelly is going to build some stalls inside.  I'm really hoping that is done in time for April lambs.  The siding is muddy but that will soon wash off.  The condition of the ground around it is...well...dreadful.  It's all muddy and churned up.  Ugh.  It'll take a while to recover.  Better now than in summer I suppose.

2.  Speaking of lambs...
...Leslie the blue-faced Leicester was due on Tuesday, but she's holding out on me.  Sheep due dates are a little bit approximate, but Leslie's udder is definitely ready for lambs, so hopefully she'll give birth soon.  Stormy the baby llama is doing very well.  He had a minor eye infection that is cleared up now.  He's started eating hay now and it's exciting to see him growing.  Soon he'll go outside but for now he's still in the barn with Dolly, his mom.

3.  Hatching time!
I have 11 new little fluffers that hatched over the past 2 days.  They are offspring of a rooster that is half Salmon Faverolle and half Ameraucana, and the hens are buff orpingtons, cinnamon queens and gold laced wyandottes.  They should grow up into interesting birds!

I think that's about all for now.  I'll be posting as soon as there are lambs to share! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We have hen fruits again!

We haven't seen eggs from our hens since November.  It has been a long, hard winter (it still is!) and we have been reduced to buying store-bought eggs.  We've kept an eye out in the barn where the hens have been for the winter, but we had not yet found any evidence that laying had commenced.

Today, Kelly was cleaning out the lambing pen where Leslie the blue-faced Leicester is currently housed.  She's due on February 16th.  Yup, one week today!  Anyway, he gives Leslie her grain in a bucket each day, and we have quite a few buckets, so he'd been putting a new bucket in whenever she knocked one over, so there was a line up of buckets along her stall.  Finally he went to retrieve them all today, having run out of buckets.  Lo and behold, he found the stash! 

Eight beautiful hen fruits were sitting in a bucket!  And they really are hen fruits.  The store-bought ones just don't qualify for that name, but these are beautiful, deeply coloured, smooth, heavy fruits that hold such richness.  They are so much more than just eggs.

When you have your own free range chickens, you are spoiled rotten.  Not only because they are entertaining, and at times even affectionate, but they are the producers of the best hen fruits ever.  These little gems are not like store-bought eggs.  They have much harder shells (because free range birds eat a very broad diet and supplement it with calcium that they obtain from a wide variety of sources) so they are much harder to crack open.  When you do crack open a real hen fruit the yolk is usually a deep golden yellow, making the store-bought eggs look positively pallid in comparison.

Unfortunately, one of the hen fruits had frozen solid and cracked.  We are not sure when they were laid, but they are not older than a week, because we don't have that many buckets!  So finally, our darling hens have begun to put forth goodness, and we are so thankful that we will not be buying eggs now.  Hooray for the hens!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A little spinning and felting

Just a quick post today to show the results of some recent spinning...

I attended the Des Moines Metro Knitters "Knit-In" event last weekend and learned some new knitting techniques, but also I spent a lot of my time spinning instead of knitting, because I tend to get frustrated with my knitting and I need to spin for a while to calm down! 

I spun up the "Chrysanthemum" colourway roving that I received as part of my fiber club with Split Rock Ranch
Brenda does lovely work with fiber and has a really good eye for colour combinations.  This one really does remind me of the deep, saturated colours of hardy fall chrysanthemums.  It is a lovely soft yarn and will soon be for sale in my Etsy shop. 

I also spun up this sparkly goodness for a friend in Calgary who had been wanting some yarn. 
This was spun from a mixed batt that I had purchased on eBay.  It is a combination of alpaca, merino, silk and icicle fibers, as well as some mohair and glitz.  The knitters liked it and pronounced it to be "unicorn fur" in its batt form.  People wanted to sleep on it.  Not allowed!

Finally, I started spinning this waaaay back in October at yarn school. 
It's a 40% bamboo, 60% merino blend from Zen String.  I loved the subtle colours of this roving but because I spun it quite finely, it took a long time to finish it.  I triple plied it using the "Navajo plying" technique, also called chain plying.  I really like how this one came out and I've decided to hang onto it in case I might want to make socks from it.  Right now, it's pretending to be the ocean for my sailboat.

Oh, I nearly forgot, here's a little felting experiment that I did.  I covered a grapevine wreath in coloured roving and then needle felted a family of sheep and a tree, and then needle felted them to the roving on the wreath.  I think it worked out quite well!  This was an entry for a little blog contest over at Kenleigh's Fiber Studio blog!  I can't wait to see her post the pictures of all the other entries. 

Have a great weekend all!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An Unwelcome Guest

I love animals.  I mean, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that.  Oftentimes, I think I have more affinity for some animals than I do for some people!  I know that many people like dogs and cats, but I like all sorts of animals - even ones that other people find ugly or unpleasant.  I am especially fond of little rodents - I like mice, voles, moles, shrews and other little furry critters that most people call vermin.  I don't want them in my house, unless they are in a cage of some sort, but I still think they're very cute.

So it might be surprising to you that I actually found an animal on the farm today who, despite his (her?) cuteness and general cuddly nature (in my opinion), is definitely not welcome here.

I am sure many of you will recognize this little foot, and this little tail....
Let me get a little closer, just in case you're not sure yet....
...yes, today I was visited by the incorrigible Mr. O. Possum.

He made me very cross.  See here the evidence of his misbehaving nature.
Tomorrow I have to figure out if it was a duck or a chicken.  Thankfully, it was not the wonderful Mr. Cindey Lou, the rooster, and for that I am very glad.  It may have been one of our white ducks.  They insist on staying out and night and it's very difficult to get them to go into the coop.  It may have also been a white chicken.  We had three I think.  If I can find a head in the morning, or at least a beak or a bill, that will tell me if it was a duck or a chicken.

So yes, I'm mad at him, especially since he sat there with telltale feathers stuck on his flanks.
At the same time, I saw how our summer hoop house for the chickens was giving him shelter, and how our bird had given him a meal in this hard time of winter, and even though I was mad, at the same time, my heart was softened, and I knew that he was just doing what wild animals do.  It's the cycle of nature.  Sometimes it's not very pretty, and sometimes it hurts, but it's nature's way. 
He does have a really cute little pink woffley nose.  And soft grey fur.

He snuggled in the corner of the hoop house, looking sort of frightened and worried.
I spoke with him sternly, and said that he may need to be relocated in the very near future, but that he could stay the night in the hoop house as long as he didn't kill any more chickens or ducks.  Fortunately, all the chickens are inside.  I hope he obeys.  We will have to look for a hav-a-hart trap and try to catch him.
Call me weird, but I still think he's really, really cute.  I just wanted to pick him up and give him a cuddle.  I don't think he would have liked that, so I controlled my instincts.