Monday, March 30, 2009

Shearing Day!

A very busy day indeed! What excitement here on the farm. It was our very first shearing day. I was really looking forward to it, and it wasn't a disappointment. Ray Schweindefus, our shearer, arrived promptly at 9 am, and the fun began. It took a little while to get set up and ready to go, but once we had our plan, off we went!

First up....Oreo the Icelandic sheep. She had the shortest fleece. She behaved very well - an old pro at this!

We moved on to KitKat. I think she's a moorit?

Here's Bianca the Icelandic after her shearing. Ray predicted she would be the first to lamb.

Clover is our Icelandic sheep due April 27. She just doesn't look very pleased about this.

Wow! Who knew such a snazzy looking sheep was hiding under all that fleece!
I think she might have been the offspring of a sheep and a dalmatian!
This is sweet little Poppy. She is such a gentle girl and so well behaved. She is a Suffolk - Dorset - Rambouillet cross sheep. I just love her long tail. She looks so different sheared! What a cute girl she is!

This is Flurry the Icelandic. I think she's a moorit. She has a lovely caramel coloured face and she had a caramel coloured fleece, but she seems to have lost that color deeper down on her fleece, so maybe she has turned white now.

Here she is all finished up. She still has brown legs and a brown face.

We moved on to the two Animal Rescue League sheep: Petunia and Buttercup. Wow, they look fabulous! The skin problems they initially had, due to the burrs that were all over them, have all cleared up. They look terrific! Ray thinks they are a cross of Montedale and maybe Cotswold or Lincoln. He also said they're a bit overweight.

We sheared the 4 angora goats - Valentino, Isobelle, Cirrus and Meri. Here's a picture of Isobelle being clipped.
The girls did well but Valentino was a big challenge. Ray said he was the second hardest shearing job he'd ever done. Unfortunately, his fleece had matted and felted to him. It probably was not shorn last fall. It was so tough, the electric clippers could not get through it. Ray had to use his hand shears (like huge scissors) to get through some of it. Poor Val got some nicks and cuts because it was like cutting through plastic in some places. We will shear him again this fall to remove all the nasty bits, which should grow out over the summer, and then after that, the next fleece should be a good one. His fleece was lovely and crimpy, but it had the texture of a plastic dish scrubbing pad. I bet it was uncomfortable for him, so I think he's glad to be sheared.

Finally, we moved on to the llamas. It was hard to take pictures because they were not particularly pleased with the shearing process. However, here is Hazel in a moment of good behavior!

Meanwhile, I've been spinning some lovely "Nassau" hand-painted roving from Wooliebullie on Etsy. Love the colours!

Tonight we had a meeting for the Des Moines Area Community College committee that we participate in. That was after my evening class. I'm tired and verging on cranky, so it's off to bed for me. I hope all our newly shorn critters have a warm night!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Busy, busy, busy and shoes.

Well, it's been a busy week, and I've been a bit absent from blogging. As some of you know, I'm in school part time, working on my 4th degree, while also working full time and being half of the farm caretaking team! This can lead to a lack of spare time. I don't really recommend it. Also, we found out on Friday that Kelly's job was being eliminated. The company has decided that it is not profitable enough for them to pay a full time person for the Iowa/Nebraska territory. So, as of Monday, he was unemployed. Then, on Tuesday, one of our new Jacob lambs died for no apparent reason. So, all this has made me a little introspective and quiet.

Still, things carry on and one just rolls with the punches or deals with things as best one can. Things generally happen for a reason, or at least we should learn from their happening, and take that learning forward into whatever faces us in the future.

Still, not wanting to be morose and gloomy, I present you with my new shoes!
Aren't they a trip?! They are remarkably comfortable. I purchased them before Kelly lost his job, so I probably wouldn't purchase them right now, since they are not all that cheap, although the comfort almost makes it worth it. They're called "Five Fingers" shoes and they are made by a company called Vibram. You can see them here. Their website says "FiveFingers enhance your sense of touch and feel, while improving foot strength, balance, agility, and range of motion. Because wearing Vibram FiveFingers is so close to going barefoot, you’ll enjoy the health and performance benefits of barefooting without some of the risks."

They come in 4 different styles, each one designed for a different level of use. Mine are the second level of use. The highest level of use is for rock climbing and hiking and such, but still they have the toes.

I have to admit that the first time I put them on, I felt like the biggest klutz on the face of the Earth. I couldn't get my toes to line up properly with each of the toe compartments. I ended up with 2 toes in 2 compartments and empty compartments as a result. I had to do some careful repositioning. It showed me how unnatural my toe positions are from wearing "regular" shoes. The next time I put them on, I was far more competent.

I think I'd agree that they enhance my sense of touch and also probably do increase foot strength and maybe balance over time. It felt funny at first wearing them, but within a few minutes, they felt more "natural" than other sorts of shoes.

I like the soles - they are nice and grippy and feel comfortable without being clunky. The fabric that the shoe is made from is nice and stretchy and easy conforms to the lumps and bumps of my funny feet!

I think they'd be GREAT for gardening, but I don't want to wear this pair in the garden because they'll get all muddy and grubby. I'll get another pair sometime for that!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blizzard has a haircut!

Recently, I noticed that Blizzard's fleece had begun to shed, so I decided it was time to roo him. Now, for those of you who aren't sheep people, you're probably saying "What does that mean?" It's a question I asked a couple of months ago when I first saw the word used in reference to fleece, so I didn't know either! Some breeds of sheep have fleece that begins to shed naturally, when it reaches a certain length. Shetland sheep and Icelandic sheep in particular are known for this. To "roo" a sheep means that you pluck its fleece out by hand. You can just kind of pull at it and it comes out in your hands. Our first 3 Icelandics were not shorn in the fall because, by the time we bought them, it was too late to shear them. Thus, their fleece is VERY long and it's not surprising that they are shedding it.

Fortunately, a couple of weeks ago I had purchased a set of hand shears - not the electric clippers, but the "scissor" type of shears. I also purchased a "deck chair" for sheep, having seen one on another blog, and I thought it would be useful. I can't remember whose blog it was, but I asked them about it, so if it was your blog, let me know so I can link to it! Sure enough, it was VERY useful.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures from the process itself. That's because I was doing the rooing (and shearing) and Kelly was holding on to Blizzard with every muscle in his body! Several times, even though Blizzard was in the "deck chair" he nearly got out, and Kelly had to wrestle him. Then, when I had to do his back end, Kelly sat on him while I did the shearing. He is an extremely strong ram. Oh, I also trimmed all his hooves while we were at it. During one of his hissy fits, he kicked hard, and managed to make me stab my hand with the hoof trimmers. Sharp!! Wow!! Blood everywhere!! (mine, not his)

So, here's the final product!

All the areas that are sort of soft and cloud-like are the roo'd areas.

As you can see, not the entire fleece was ready to roo, so I had to shear some places (namely on the chest area and his hind quarters. I guess it's OK for my first try.

I left the belly area alone and will let our real shearer do that when he shears our other girls later this month. You can see below he had a little area on his right side that wasn't roo-able, so I sheared it too.

What do you think sheep feel when they've been sheared? Are they embarrassed around the other, unsheared sheep? Does he feel less of a "man" in front of his ladies? This is Flurry, below, and she's still in full fleece. Behind her is Poppy, but her fleece doesn't get as long as the Icelandic breed.
I hope he feels more comfortable now. I have a big bag of fleece to take to the processor. I'm not sure if it will be good for processing because it was roo'd but we'll see.

Thank you so much to Deb at Antiquity Oaks, who posted her Creme Brulee Pie recipe. I altered it slightly, using a little less sugar, and omitting the turbinado sugar, but adding a teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. Next time I'm going to add a splash of Amaretto! Anyway, it was wonderful and Kelly ate it too!

Finally, I leave you with a lovely sunset from last night - crossed jet trails and a glowing orb. The same orb that gave me a sunburn on March 21st, in IOWA!!! Crazy....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Zak's Ears and Useful Information!

A number of you have asked about Zak's ears. A while ago, I posted about Zak losing all the hair off his ears in little clumps, and I was worried about them. You can read that post here.

I'm pleased to report that Zak's ears have returned to normal. All the little chunks of fur eventually fell off, but now his ears have a lovely new coating of downy fur on them and he is looking very healthy. Here's a lovely picture of him that Diane took when she visited. Zak loves corn stalks.

So, what was the secret to fixing the problem? Well, it was so helpfully provided to me by JLB over on her blog "Do your own vet work"! She has some great posts on there, and furthermore, if you ask a question, she'll actually go do some research on it and post about it. Now that's a valuable resource! She also did a great post about goat kid vaccines, and how to draw your own blood samples from your herd. Check it out! Her help and the links she included on her Feb 21 post on goat ear hair loss helped me decide to try VetRx on the ears. We liberally rubbed it into both his ears, top and bottom. Only a few treatments were needed and new hair began to grow.

Yes Zak, we are talking about you. I know you always want the attention...

Incidentally, JLB also lives near the best lumber store in the world...check out her other blog on bargains at the hardware store

An Unexpected Birth

If you're a regular reader, or even a semi-regular reader, of my blog, you might remember this post here. It was about a number of different things, but among them, was the question I posed for any donkey experts. my donkey, Willow, pregnant? She was looking a bit rounded to me. A little "Reubenesque" even! Some of you commented that you weren't sure. Some of you thought she might be. I personally thought she was just chubby, perhaps on account of having previously had a baby donkey.

We did obtain Willow with her gelded son, Springfield. We got them from the Animal Rescue League. We were told that her son had been gelded and that she was not with other donkeys at her foster home when she was recovering from her abusive past. So, there really was never a question about her status - she was never supposed to have been pregnant.

Well, sometimes, mistakes are made. This, was CLEARLY one of those times!

So how did we discover this today? Well, first of all, finally, FINALLY, we have a vet who is able to take us on as a new client! Hooray! The vet was visiting for the first time today. We wanted him to look at our other angora goats (remember, the one that died? And remember, her necropsy showed nothing? Well, we wanted blood work done on one of the others, just in case). Also, the vet was going to geld Rosco, our young male llama. So, I was with the vet in the goat pen, holding down Cirrus, while he was taking a blood sample. Kelly had gone to round up Rosco and get him on a lead for the "procedure" to come.

Suddenly, Kelly called to me from the llama area "Claire, you're not going to believe this!" and I'm holding a goat who is having blood drawn so I say "What?" and he says "Come here!" and I say "I can't, I'm holding a goat!" So he says "You've got a baby donkey over here."

WHAT???!!! I nearly dropped the goat. As soon as I could, I rushed over. Sure enough, we had a baby donkey. A walking, dry, perfectly happy, black baby donkey. Totally adorable. He must have been born several hours beforehand, and we just had no idea. Donkey gestation is a full 12 months, so we have no idea exactly where she was a year ago today, but evidently, there was a man in her life at the time!

The vet still gelded Rosco - an interesting procedure. He had a bizarre reaction to the initial shot of opioid that was supposed to help him chill out for the procedure. He seemed to have a little seizure of sorts and went down. We all worried for a while but he snapped out of it after trembling and shaking for some time. Once he was standing, the vet went ahead with the procedure, which included a shot of lidocaine directly into the testicles. Rosco didn't even flinch. He behaved tremendously well. I watched carefully because surgical procedures fascinate me. It was much less bloody than I would have thought, and so quick - he was walking around right afterwards.

Anyway, the vet advised that no initial shots were needed for our little donkey. Kelly is still thinking of a good name. He is so unusually dark - I don't think I've ever seen such a dark donkey. I'd like to name him Espresso, but Kelly gets to name the male animals on the farm, so it's his choice.

Willow is a very good Mama Donkey, helping protect her little one whenever any of the goats or llamas went near. She also seems to be nursing successfully.

Truly a special donkey, born on the first day of spring, and such an unusual colour. I am sure he is a special soul.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I've been tagged!

This is a fun tagging! Anna Wight over at Sassy & Sweet Notes tagged me for a photo blog post.

First, you should know that Anna designs really cute and clever critters for rubber stamps, which you can buy from Whippersnapper Designs. She has a particular skill with making really cute chickens. I have purchased a couple of cute prints from her as well, featuring her lovely chicken art. Here's a link to one I bought that I just love, because it has my name on a chicken (spelled differently, but it's the concept that counts!)

Anyway, I'm supposed to post the 6th picture in the 6th photo folder in my photos. I use iPhoto on a mac, so I'm using the 6th picture from my 6th album on there. The album is called "M&D's Garden" which of course is Mummy and Daddy's Garden (yes, I call them Mummy and Daddy, because that's what they have always been to me!). Here is the 6th photo. Just look at those blue delphiniums. Glorious.

I adore my parents' garden. It's beautiful, and I hope my garden can someday look as good as theirs. They have been working at this garden for many years, so it always looks beautiful, but one must start somewhere, and that's where I am.

Here are a couple of other photos of their garden. It's a pure delight! Look at these poppies with the white foxgloves over them and the purple in the background. My mother has a great eye for plant combinations.

It is always so lush in the summer! Look at their Japanese anemones! Huge!! Mine never get that big. (they're the tall pink things in the back middle, for those who don't know).
So, now I'm supposed to tag 6 others to do the same thing!
Here they are....let's see if they notice...
1. Bedtick Farm
2. Isobelle Golightly the Beautiful Goat
3. A Girl and a Farm
4. Loess is More (because of course she has such cool pictures!)
5. 3 Flat Acres
6. Fancyin' the Farm Life

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More Signs of Spring!

Diane of Loess is More came to town yesterday, and we had a fabby time! We had a proper midwestern BBQ lunch at Jethro's, and then went to see some cool roadside artwork that she had found, just outside of Granger, Iowa. Of course, we had to end up at the farm, because everybody has to meet Luna! Diane is a professional photographer and she took an absolute ton of photos, and I know there will be more, but for now, I will just show one of my favorites so far. This is Tulip, our goat from the Animal Rescue League. She looks a hundred times better than when we first got her. Diane is such a super photographer - she really caught the feeling of the place and the animals. I can't wait to see more shots.

Since Diane had inspired me with her photography, I decided to do a bit of my own. Spring is bursting out all over Whispering Acres. I went for a little walkabout to see what I could see that told me spring is on our doorstep. Here are a few of the things I found!

Here's a gooseberry bush, just starting to break bud. I hope we don't get any more hard freezes!

This is a blackcurrant shrub, also starting to leaf out.

My variegated willow is furthest along, I think. I love the tiny pink tips!

This is a lilac that gets afternoon sun - definitely ready to put on a show!

My hens-and-chicks (sempervivum) plants are fattening up and looking healthy. I love to see those patches of green coming through the leaf litter.

See that little pink nubbin on the branch below?! That's my William Baffin rose! I can't wait to see those flowers again.

The sedum is going strong and really greening up too!

Here's an achillea - green fronds just breaking through the old growth. I really need to do a bit of garden clean-up!

Crocuses are blooming like little purple flames in groups all around the south side of the house. I'm so glad I took the time to plant all those bulbs!

I do believe these are daffodils. They are growing by inches every day!

I have no clue what this is. I did plant a lot of bulbs in the fall, so I do believe it's a bulb. I think it's warm because it is right by the foundation. This is a spot the chickens like to sun themselves. See the feathers lying about?!

More crocus, mixed in with other green sprouts of some sort...
A pair of meadowlarks in the tree - their songs are so beautiful! I've also seen the robins, the red wing blackbirds, and the wild ducks are coming back as well. I hope this pair decides that they like my yard enough to stay!

How is spring in your part of the world? (or are you heading into fall?)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fibery Goodness

I had such a wonderful day on Monday! I visited with Abi at High Prairie Fibers to learn all about wool processing and to take some fleeces that I had purchased from someone who owns a vineyard but they don't do anything with their fleece. At first, I was just going to take a little of it, but after I started looking through the colors they had, it was just too tempting, so I bought it all - crazy madwoman that I am!

To give you an idea of the amount of fleece, here is a picture of a normal paper towel roll sitting on top of the bag of fleece. We had already opened the main bag and taken some out, so the white bags are also garbage bags all full of fleece. I'm telling you, this was a LOT of fleece!

I am so glad I did buy it all, because there were some delightful fleeces in there! Some light oatmeal color with crimpy bits!

Some dark fleeces with sun-bleached tips!

Some grey or salt-and-pepper fleeces too!

There were a few that were not as good, but they can be used for felting fiber.

One of the best things about my trip was that Corinne from Crosswinds Farm was there on the same day! It was so much fun to meet another blogger whose blog I read often. She has lovely Shetland sheep. I got to feel all the fleece she brought, and see all the different qualities on her sheep's fleece too, so it was even more education for me! Corinne and Abi were so friendly and helpful and made me feel like I wasn't a crazy madwoman after all because they were just like me! We sat around feeling fleece, testing crimp to see if it went "ping" and whispering about the loveliness of certain fleeces (it's a rule, you have to whisper, otherwise you might disturb the fleece).

All this made me even more anxious for our own shearing day to arrive. We will have 9 sheep's fleeces, 6 llama fleeces and 4 angora goat fleeces! Wow, a folly of fleece!

Oh, by the way, Corinne is trying to convince me to acquire a Shetland sheep, or two. It's working!

Abi and her husband also run the Iowa Parrot Rescue! We had a simply wonderful visit with the parrots. They have a beautiful facility and the parrots get a lot of love and attention. I was lucky enough to have a macaw sit on my shoulder! It was quite remarkable.

Isobelle the angora goat says:
"Oh please, you can shear me anytime, it's getting warm out!"