Thursday, June 26, 2008

Little things

A couple of days ago I noticed an egg on the floor of the sheep barn under my Barn Swallow's nest. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was a whole shell, but had a puncture in one end and was hollow. I was concerned about my little friends and I worried that all of their hard work in securing a nest site, and successfully starting a clutch of eggs, had somehow gone wrong. I didn't have time to climb up and take a peek at that time, so today I got out my trusty (ancient rickety) wooden ladder and climbed up to see what fate had come to them. As I balanced myself, with camera in hand, on the top rung of the ladder as it creaked and wiggled ( okay, I don't need to be so dramatic, it is actually just a step ladder, I am very afraid of heights) I was thrilled to see these four fat, healthy nestlings peering back at me! Only one of the eggs didn't hatch.
I apologised to the babes in advance for the flash of the camera that was about to come, and took the above picture. Then I about fell off of the ladder laughing, because when they heard the high pitched beep of my camera, they thought it was the dinner bell and everyone stretched their little beaks open as wide as they could go waiting to be filled up.

Sometimes you have to take time to appreciate the small stuff.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The dust has settled

I am finally starting to get caught up on a few of my very delayed spring projects. It seems as though each of the chores that I want to complete have been contingent on other events which are beyond my control. The weather, obviously, has been the most disruptive force here since the beginning of spring. Planting of the garden was far beyond the normal time frame, and once the garden was in, the poor plants sat in the cold wet ground waiting for the earth to warm to a point where they could grow. Many of my seeds and transplants rotted from the excessive amount of moisture and have since had to be replaced. Although it rained today, and is expected to rain for the next couple of days, we did have a good week of beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, so some of my plants are showing signs of recovery.......I know the weeds look exceptionally healthy!
I have gotten about half of one garden weeded to the point where I can actually distinguish rows. Wooohooo! Well, I do still have the other half and another whole garden to steps.

Another thing I can cross off my list that I am especially happy about, is that we got our dust control this week. Perhaps I should explain. We have a gravel road on the west side of our property. If you've ever driven down a gravel road, or driven behind another car on a gravel road, you know that a thick cloud of dust bellows from the tires to the point of obscuring your view. Imagine that dust blowing into your house everyday. We can't open the windows on the north or west sides of the house unless we want enough dust on the kitchen table to grow potatoes.

Here is a photo of said dust.
So, the remedy to this distressing situation is to call our local co-op and order dust control. First they send out the county road trucks to grade the gravel (which was 2 months behind, by the way, because of the poor road conditions after the harsh winter and flooding in the spring), then they send this nifty little truck full of oil that sprays down the road for a specified distance that we mark off by sticking little flags next to the road. We had them spray 400 feet.
And here is the finished product. All for the lovely little price tag of $400 for 2 applications. Problem solved. Yes? Well, yes and no. This process does work wonders for keeping the dust down temporarily. The down side is that they can use several different types of control depending on what is available at the time. Sometimes they use tree sap, which works really well. Another product that they use is calcium chloride, and sometimes a soy bean oil byproduct, the latter is what I think they used this time. Effective? Quite. But it also has a distinct odor to it for the first few days. As my dear niece so aptly put it the other day, "Smells like Kung Pow chicken out here".

Sadly, I no longer have an excuse for having an inch of dust on my furniture.

Anywhoo, I have been waiting for "the dust to settle" so that I might get some of my barns painted. I didn't want to spend all the time and energy painting, only to end up with designer textured barns once the dust deposited itself upon my freshly painted surfaces.

Since the weather has taken a turn for the better, I was able to use some organic insect control on my fruit trees and it looks like my pear trees are going to have a bumper crop.

My flowers are just coming into their full glory. When we bought the house there were several beds of the "standard issue" purple echinacea (cone flowers) that most every farm in Iowa has. I removed a lot of them, but left one section around an old hitching post. Since then I have developed a fondness for the echinaceas and have found several other varieties that I enjoy.
This one is "Pica Bella".

This one is "Pink Double Delight".

Here are some of my Rudibekia (black eyed Susan).

This is a Black Eyed Susan too...even though it doesn't have a black eye.....what's up with that?
My hydrangeas have really popped this year and are growing wonderfully. I think that they are some of the few plants that have appreciated the cool temps and abundant moisture.

Also a fan of the cool temps and moisture... my hostas. I have almost as many hostas as I have chickens....maybe as many hostas as I have sheep.
This is one of my favorite hostas "June".
"Summer Breeze". Oh, sorry about the jaw bone, kinda weird, I know, but then again if you have been reading my blog for any length of should know that about me. I found the bone under my horse tank one day when I was cleaning it of course it ended up in my garden.

"Fire and Ice"

Can't remember who this guy is. We just call him Charlie Meyer after the man who's family built this farm.
I must apologise for yet another post about chickens. You can blame Michelle for it though. She is always so nice to comment about my chickens, so now I feel like someone is actually interested! I promise this will be the last until they have all grown up and then I can post an update on how they turned out.

When I was ordering my chicks this spring, I initially spoke with Sandhill Preservation about acquiring a few Blue Orpington chicks. B.O.'s (hmmm) are quite hard to find and I love the temperament of the Orps. Sandhill was already sold out for the entire season, but since their farm is only a few miles from me, they put me on a waiting list in case they had extra chicks in any of their hatches this season. Well, since it had been so long and I hadn't heard anything, I assumed that they were not going to have any peepers for me. You know what they say about assuming?

I got a call yesterday, "This is Linda from Sandhill and we have your chicks". OMG.

Luckily, I had only asked for five so that wouldn't be bad. Five is do-able. When I picked the chicks up, they handed the box to me and said, "Here are your eight chicks"..........hmmmmmmm. They threw in 3 free, of course I called my fellow chicken hoarder/neighbor/friend to see if she would like 4 all worked out.
FYI, this is not a conjoined chicken, just a funny camera angle.

These are some of the cutest chicks EVER.

BTW, I now have the big girls in the big chicken barn, the teenage chicken barn, the little girls in the garage waiting until they are big enough to go in the teenage barn, and the new chicks who, for now, are in my home office............geeesh!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Missing man parts

Yesterday I took Oliver and Dillon in to be wethered. Oliver, as I mentioned before, is going to a home where he will be a fiber pet. The boys, at 7 1/2 weeks, are just too big to band (in my opinion). So I drove them into town to see Dr. Sullivan, baaaing in the back of the truck all the way there (the lambs, not me)....they were strangely silent on the way home though.

Since Oliver (below) was purchased as a fiber pet, I had no qualms about having him castrated.I had a lot of hesitation about having Dillon "done" though. Dillon has wonderful square conformation, gorgeous fleece ( like his brother and his dam), and his dam's perfect little fluke tail. But as he has grown, It looks like he is a half poll and will have small scurs. His dam, Willow, carries some polled genetics. She had a beautiful polled ram lamb last year that I had a hard time placing and ended up selling as a fiber pet.

The problem is that it is hard to sell a solid black ram, no matter how nice he is. There are not enough Shetland breeders in my area breeding for polled genetics....heck, there are not enough Shetland breeders in my area period! So, Dillon loses his manhood to hopefully become someone's new fiber friend.
For those of you who wonder what we Shetland people are talking about when we say "fluke tail", here is a pretty darn good example of one. This is Willow.....errrr...Willow's hind end.

The tail is wider at the top with a wool covering and tapers down to a hair covered tip. This is an important characteristic of the Shetland breed.

The only intact ram lamb that I have left to sell in Duncan. He has really nice conformation, fleece and tail. His horns look like they are going to be wide set at this point. He carries spotting genetics....and obviously moorit.

Other stuff.

I guess that I have been neglectful by not showing pictures of my newest chicks. Actually, I think I got them around the beginning of June, but I have been distracted by too many other things going on...monsoon like weather...flooding basement..whatever. So, here are some not so recent photos... just to introduce you.

This is one of my Barnevelder chicks. All of the breeds in this last batch ( last batch for this year)will lay the dark chocolate colored eggs. Here is my criteria for picking chickens;

1) They have to be pretty, or at the very least unusual....weird is good too, I just don't want anything that would be considered normal (notice I have exactly zero white sheep).

2) My chickens cannot lay white eggs. None. Ever. Blue, green, brown, light brown, dark brown, all acceptable. White? No.

3) Chickens must be friendly. What's that you say? Chickens aren't friendly? Clearly you have never been to my farm, or in my chicken coop where they all fly up to land on your head.

No it's not anything like that Alfred Hitchcock movie!

Welsummer chick.

Cuckoo Maran

I never did get a chance to post about all of the cats, but tonight Justin is picking up the Iowa City cats and taking them home (yeah), so we will be down to the usual 4 cats......hmmm..that always looks so much worse when I see it in print. Who has 4 cats in their house?

Monday, June 16, 2008


I am here! I haven't been swept away with the flooding. Maybe you've heard, we are having a little bit of trouble with precipitation here in Iowa, so there has been nothing but rain and water to blog about. I don't want to make light of the situation, but I figured that there has been enough about the flooding on the news. So lookie here! Blue sky and sunshine today! We finally had a beautiful day and now the weather guessers are telling us that it will be sunny and dry for most of the week.As an added bonus, my neighbor/fencer/friend was able to get the extra pasture for the ewes fenced...granted the post holes filled up with water as fast as he dug them, but he got it done and the ewes and lambs got out in the long, fresh grass for a limited time today. Really long grass. Really. Long. Who would have thought, if it rains an inch, or three, or five a day, for.... umpteen days, the grass grows really well.Here is Willow with her boys trying to stay close enough to not lose sight of each other.
I think that we have discussed this before, but does anyone think that Sage really needs to be ear deep in food? Anyone?? "What??"

Ande was the last one to test out the new pasture. At first he just stood there watching the sheep and Mama Llama grazing on the lush pasture, nervously humming for his mother to come back, and then pacing along the fence line. It seems as though Ande was afraid to venture out where he could not see his feet. After reassuring him that he was not going to be swallowed up by the invisible pasture gnomes, and that his feet would not disappear if he couldn't see them, I coaxed him out into the grass. It didn't take him long to decide that this was a great new place to play. Unfortunately Isabella was chosen as his playmate for his "chase the sheep with the longest tail" game, and she was not a willing participant, although she does have the longest tail. Look at that thing!

Some lambies enjoying their new found bounty.
Ram lamb ( soon to be wether) Oliver. He has yummy fleece like his dam. He and Briannah, pictured below, have been reserved and are going to live in Missouri. Briannah is beautiful, she is also super sweet and friendly. It will be hard to see them go, but I know they will have a good home.
Below is Aleena, Daisy's ewe lamb.

Duncan, Briannah's twin.

Of course Princess Fiona.

Below is Sophia. She is a yearling ewe out of Sage (she is less portly than her mom). She was my first solid Moorit (brown) lamb last year, now I have more brown lambs than I know what to do with!

Lovey's ewe lamb Guinevere. I love her dark brown coloring. Her tail is not the best, but otherwise she has very nice conformation.

Those were the only sheepies that I could get a picture of today, so that's a quick update.

Stuff I might elaborate on later: We have 6 cats in our house right live in Iowa City...apartment not really accessible right now (another Iowa water thing)...the kids' cats come to mom and dad's to stay until... I guess until they open the interstate again. Fun! The kids are quite safe by the way :).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gee, what lovely weather..are you picking up a hint of sarcasm?

I don't want to complain about the incessant rain and flooding, so here is my "glass half full" version of the weather that we are having.....nifty cloud and rainbow pictures.

Incidentally, these were all taken within about an hours time. Interesting weather we are having.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Brown girls and barn swallows

These photos may help illustrate why I am having difficulty deciding which of my moorit (brown) ewe lambs are staying. All three girls have very nice conformation, crimpy, soft fleece and good Shetland tails and all three are VERY friendly. The ewe lamb in the front, Aleena, I am keeping. She has perhaps the crimpiest fleece of the three, and her dam (Sommarang Daisy) is one of my favorite ewes with very nice flecket markings and great fleece. Aleena carries the spotting genes that I am trying to keep in my flock.

Briannah, in the center, I have for sale on my website....BUT......she is such a nice little ewe, also carries spotting genetics from her dam (Sheepy Hollow Red Trillium). I wouldn't be too disappointed if I didn't sell her, in fact, I haven't been trying very hard at all to sell any of them, they are just too nice this year.

The last ewe lamb is Guinivere. She is out of my ewe Sheepy Hollow Lovey. I would say that she is more of a dark brown than moorit at this point, she has a "moon spot" on one of her ears. She also is an exceptional ewe lamb, her tail is a tad longer than the other girls, but still acceptable.

Three brown girls, all born with minor krunet markings, all have great fleece and conformation....what is a shepherd to do? Perhaps buy more land?

Other stuff around the farm today.

I have a pair of barn swallows that has been trying, with very limited success, to build a nest in the sheep barn. Normally these industrious little feathered creatures are veritable architectural geniuses. They gather mud and affix it to a vertical surface to construct a sturdy little nest lined with soft treasures gathered from the farm in which to lay their eggs.... Normally.

This pair must be inexperienced youngsters. I have watched them try, for the last couple of weeks, to make an acceptable home in which to raise their brood, and I have been almost embarrassed for them. The first several attempts left these remnants of mud on the highest point of this truss. They spent the day collecting mud and attaching it to the boards, only to have it slide off....

And land on the beam below.

If this happened once, okay, but this went on for several days, different locations, but the same sad results. In their defense, I must say that it has done nothing but rain here for an eternity, so the quality of the mud was probably less than desirable.

Finally, they found a spot....alright, they cheated a little. There really was no way for the mud to fall out once wedged in this crevice.
After several days of hard work, the task was complete. Today I decided to take a peek inside to see if their efforts were fruitful. I was delighted to find 5 dainty, speckled, eggs, all in a cozy nest, that, to my surprise, was lined with feathers from the hen that we lost the other day. Isn't it interesting how life just circles around?

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