Saturday, March 21, 2009

The undead chickens.

It is a good thing that I am well aware how strange the animals that reside here can be....otherwise I might have been completely freaked out when I checked on my hens this afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I was planning on taking some photos of the hens, but when I came through their gate and rounded the corner of the barn, I was greeted with this sight!It looked like pure carnage-some sort of chicken massacre. As I mentioned earlier though, I know my strange little friends too well, and recognised that they were merely sunning themselves and taking "luxuriant" dust baths.

REALLY, NOT DEAD...I PROMISE!Still, not dead.
Not even a little bit dead.
Pretty convincing, I know, but even White Chicken....NOT dead.

Ugly Betty......she lives!

"See guys, I told you she wouldn't fall for it!"

"It was all White Chicken's idea."
When I finally got everyone up to their feet to join the living again, I was able to take the photos that I was originally planning on taking.
I was looking at the photos of my friend Abi's parrots from my earlier post, thinking how beautiful and striking those birds are, and I got to thinking......why am I not giving my chickens credit for their unique beauty? OK, maybe you are laughing because the first half of this post quite possibly does not show them in their best light, but seriously, it amazes me how a creature as simple (not a reference to their mental capabilities) as a chicken can have such stunning feathering, full of intricate patterns, vivid colors, and iridescent shine that dances across their plumage as it captures the light.
BarnevelderSilver-Laced Wyandotte
Golden-Laced Wyandotte
Rhode Island Red
Barred Rock
Speckled Sussex
After showing you the dead chicken act, I felt as though I should post something that would recover a small bit of dignity for my feathery flock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fiber fondling

Monday I took all of my fleeces to Abi's High Prairie Fiber studio, as I do every year for processing. I always have such fun there. Abi is super creative and interesting and we have a great time admiring the colors and texture of each fleece and deciding how each one will be processed. This time it was even more fun because it just happened that Claire, from Whispering Acres, was there with some fleece that she had purchased.....A lot of fleece. A LOT. When Claire pulled her vehicle up and opened the door, there were bags of fleece as far as the eye could see. There was fleece stuffed in every nook and cranny...we unloaded, and unloaded, and unloaded...let's just say it was an obscene amount of fleece. I brought 15 bags of my own down with me, so between Claire and I we pretty much filled Abi's studio. First we went through all of Claire's beautiful fleeces. We ohhhhhed and ahhhhed over the crimpiness and softness.

We listened to the strands of fleece.
Below is a photo of Claire having a moment with one of my fleeces...which by the way, according to Claire, smells like popcorn. I have heard of popcorn chicken, and popcorn shrimp but I had no idea that I was raising popcorn sheep. Claire is a little silly like me. I am not sure what Abi is thinking in this photo....she was probably wondering what she has gotten herself into....
After we skirted, sorted, fondled, smelled and lusted over each fleece, we bagged them back up and left Abi's studio buried in fibery deliciousness.
Of course, when you go to Abi's, you have to stop and say "Hi" to their parrots. They run a parrot rescue and recently built a brand new facility on their property to house all of their feathered friends.
And no trip to a fiber studio would be complete without a visit to the sheep that live there. Her sheep are very stately and serious, they don't rush you baaaing for cookies like some sheepies that I am familiar with.
The day flew by, and after taking a few minutes to sit and visit on Abi's porch, overlooking the gently rolling hills, with the sounds of birds twittering in the trees, it was time to head home. I am so lucky to have met so many fun, interesting people through my blog and my little farm. Thanks Abi and Claire for a fun, relaxing day.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I am a gate closing fanatic. If you go through a gate check it, check it again, and then go back to make sure, for certain, that it is unequivocally, completely, totally latched. If I were to write ten commandments, of course the first one would be: "Just be nice!", the next nine would be: "Close the gate!!". This post is somewhat of a red-faced apology to all my friends and family that have been scolded, by me, for not closing the gate.

This morning I went about my usual morning routine. I fed the barn cats and roosters, went around back to throw the rams their morning hay, fed the horses and filled their water, carried hay to the ewes and llamas and gave them their grain ration, and lastly, checked on the hens. What a beautiful day it is today. Warm sunbeams shining down, little bits of green starting to show through the grass, and the birds are in full voice welcoming in this lovely weather.

With my chores completed, I headed down the driveway to retrieve the morning newspaper, thinking to myself what a glorious day it was.......that feeling of euphoria was shattered when I turned back toward the house just in time to see our 3 horses running, bucking and generally frolicking around the yard.....the gate to their pasture wide open. This was not good. I threw the paper down and headed for the barn to get a bucket of grain and some halters. Normally my horses will come running to me if I call them, but knowing that this was a lovely spring morning and they were already in a very frisky mood, I knew that this was not going to be the case. By the time I grabbed lead ropes and halters they were already off on a little adventure, gleefully trotting along the road to who knows where. I threw my ropes and grain in the truck and headed down the road after them, Gary jumped in the other vehicle and followed behind. Luckily several passersby stopped and alerted cars to slow down as I got out and went after them on foot. One very nice lady wanted to help and asked me, "What do you call them?"...that was probably not the time to ask me what I called them because, I believe at that time, I was cursing like a sailor. Eventually they got away from the busy traffic and headed into the neighbor's neatly manicured lawn, and continued to the edge of the corn field where they stopped and looked at each other like, "Dude, we're lost". They stood and thought about it for a moment and then they promptly turned back toward me, and my daughter's old 4-H leader who had joined the chase somewhere along the way, as if to say, "OK, we're done, get us home now". We haltered each of them and Gary and I walked the 3 knuckleheads back home, which was now about a quarter of a mile away, through the exceedingly muddy corn field where our boots accumulated upwards of 20 pounds of mud to add to our already dragging feet. I then reminded Gary that life is never dull being married to me....he muttered something...still not quite sure what he said.

This is what happens to soft spring ground when 1200 pound horses go running around on it.
After we got the horses put away, we spent the next half hour replacing the divots in the they do on the golf course..I guess..I don't think I've ever actually been to one, but I have, however, seen "Pretty Woman" and I remember Julia Roberts doing that. What a mess!
The now very tired and muddy horses, in a very unapologetic manner, peeked around the corner to watch us work.

"We were framed I tell you!"

I apparently didn't latch the gate completely the night before, and being the little tricksters that they are, one of them decided to push it opened....probably Jake. Again, my fault, I taught him how to open and close gates, which is a very useful skill when you are trail riding but obviously it can backfire.The moral of the story? CLOSE THE GATE!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shearing day!

I have been deliberating for the last month or so as to whether I was going to have the shearer come out to do my sheep this year, or if I would be brave enough to hand shear them myself, since I only have 15 to shear. Thursday I decided to break down and call the shearer to at least see what his schedule was looking like. As it turned out, he would be available on Saturday morning. So I checked the forecast to see if the weather would be conducive to shearing. It was going to be dry and sunny and continue with warm dry conditions all week long, which would be perfect for my nekked sheep so that wouldn't get too cold......of course that made the decision for me, so I weenied out of the idea of hand-shearing and had the shearer come out!

Shearing is always fun, but it is also nerve-wracking. I worry what the fleeces will look like, I worry that maybe the sheep won't be in top condition under all that fleece (it is difficult to tell how fat or thin some of the ewes are when they are carrying a full year's fleece), I worry about nicks from the clippers...I just pretty much worry about everything. But, as much as I worry, it is such a thrill to see that beautiful clean fleece peel away as the clippers slide through all that fluff, and to see the results of a year's hard work after keeping the sheep clean and properly fed to produce that wonderful fleece.Ande also worried and kept a watchful eye on his sheepie friends....from a safe distance outside of the barn, of course. Little did he know what was in store for him!

Fluffy goodness.
I was thrilled to see that all of the fleeces were in excellent shape, only a couple of the girls had started with the rise so there was not a great deal of grease to contend with (which makes for a happy shearer).

People have asked me, "What the heck are you talking about when you refer to the "Ag" pattern with some of your sheep?". This photo is a good example of what happens with that. The white part is actually the part that was growing close to the skin and the dark ends were the sheep's original color, this shows how the fleece changed and lightened through the year. Now that the dark has been sheared off this ewe will stay the lighter color. This is why I don't like that genetic pattern to pop up in my spotted sheep. With the Ag gene, a lamb will be born as a pretty spotted, or solid, or patterned, colorful baby and then as they get older all the pretties go away and they end up a very light grey (if they are black based), or a very light brown ( Musket if they are brown based). Not that there is anything wrong with Ag sheep, one of my fav ewes is Ag and she has some of my nicest fleece, I just don't like my patterns and spots to fade.

Same fleece, just upside down now...I just wanted to show it again to taunt Garrett with it's crimpiness.

This is some solid black fleece with sun-bleached tips.
After shearing, CDT vaccinations and hoof trimmings were done (and fleece samples gathered), I had the opportunity to check conditions of all of the sheep and evaluate the bred ewes to see how far along they looked. I was so happy to see that, despite the very harsh winter that we had here, everyone looked great. No skinny sheep here! I always forget how much smaller they look once they have been sheared....and how many more can fit around a feeder now.
Below is Sage....nope, not preggo, not anywhere near the boys...just a big pig.
I also always forget how ginormous the sheep's heads look without all that fleece! Here are a couple of my wethers to demonstrate the look.

Dillon...or..ET phone home (for sale BTW).


Diego and Dillon.

After we got all of the sheep finished and returned them each to their respective pastures, it was time to turn our attention to Ande. My shearer will NOT shear llamas. This was something that I would have to contend with on my own......or with the help of my unsuspecting, ever-helpful sister, Marie. By past experience, (see previous post about Mama Llama) this was something that would have to be accomplished far away from the watchful eye of Mama Llama. Once all of the sheep had been removed from the barn, we distracted Mama with some breakfast and lured a very gullible Ande into the barn and closed all of the doors. We decided that it would be best if I would be the one to hold onto Ande while Marie did the actual cutting of the fiber. Marie is not known for her discipline skills and if Ande decided to try to kick or wiggle away I thought it best to have someone in more of a position of authority to handle the situation, clearly Marie was not the best choice for this....she is the cookie lady to the animals, they love her, but they laugh at her meager attempts at sternness.

Now, I didn't buy any hand shears, because, after all, I decided to have the shearer do the sheep for me...but in retrospect, I should have purchased some for Ande's haircut. I should have, but sadly, I didn't and when Marie started using the scissors that I provided it was a bit like using a butter knife. Finally Gary came to the rescue with a sharp pair of scissors from his office and saved the day...or the fleece...or Marie's hands...well, whatever, all of that stuff.
I never said that it was pretty, but we got it done! Mama Llama will have to wait for another day, when I am more ready to do battle.....and I am wearing a wetsuit.

"Did you see what they did to me, Edrea?"

" Look at this, Aleena, I told that shearer only A LITTLE off the top and now look at me!"

"I know, Fiona, he said that I had some grease in my fleece and that's why I have these little clumps everywhere, I can't go out like this!"

"Daddy, it was terrible, that shearer set me on my bum, and ran those noisy clippers all over and then mom and Auntie Marie gave me shots. I expect that from mom, but et tu, Auntie Ree?".

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