Saturday, January 31, 2009

Good-bye January!

Today we got a brief respite from the brutal weather that we have been having here. The temps were in the mid 40's and we had bright, beautiful sunshine all day, what a great way to end a really looong dreary month! The animals reveled in the warm rays of the sun. Jasmine found a patch of snow to take a mid afternoon nap, and soak up the fleeting glimpse of spring. I felt compelled to go and put my hands on her fur, I love the cozy feeling of an animal's fur when they have been lounging in the sun, so warm and soft.
The chickens ventured out to scratch around in the still frozen ground. They always have access to the outdoors, but haven't left the comfort of their coop much lately, for fear of becoming chickencicles. It was good to see them out, cackling to each other and picking at imaginary bugs on the ground.

Ande is getting a little ahead of himself. For some reason his fiber is starting to roo (shed) off already....I am hoping that he knows something that we don't...maybe a sign of early spring????

He is starting to look a bit ridiculous. First, he started losing fiber around the top of his neck, and now it is working it's way down, leaving him with this lovely looking faux-hawk hair style. I must admit, that I have helped this along...I can't help's addictive. I see these loose tufts just begging me to pull them, most of the time they come out quite easily.

Sometimes I will find a spot that is more resistant to my crude removal techniques and probably pinches a little when I pull......which results in this angry Ande face...

When the angry Ande face fails to dissuade me from my fibery harvest, Ande calls in the big guns and tells Mama Llama how he has been wronged....she doesn't really care though.
Today, Ande got lucky. Auntie Marie stopped by for a visit, she is the keeper of the cookies, giver of snuggles, and makes it her job to right all injustices imposed upon animalkind here at Crosswinds farm. She will listen to his sad story.

Yeah, he's got her fooled!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Really? Maybe it's just me...

When I opened up my new issue of Mother Earth News yesterday ( a magazine that is geared toward sustainable living and healthy lifestyles), this ad jumped out at me. Am I the only one that sees the irony in this....does it really matter if the are ORGANIC cigarettes? Seriously, dude. C'mon. I think the manufacturers are reaching a bit here.

I dunno, just my thought for the day, maybe it's just me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cabin fever.

All the residents here at Crosswinds farm have been suffering with a raging case of cabin fever, after all, it is January in Iowa, and you will have that here, it happens. A lot. Each of us has been trying to cope in our own way. Sunday, Gary and I decided that we needed to get out of the house for a while, so we opted for some 'flea market therapy'. I think we all know about my unnatural love of junk...mostly old junk....wooden junk, farmy junk, antique junk.....pretty much all of it. Yup, I love junk.

It was a nice day for a drive, and although on this trip we didn't really find anything that we couldn't live without, it felt good to get away for a couple of hours. It is more the thrill of the hunt anyway, that makes my heart go pitter pat. Never knowing for sure what you are going to find in the bottom of that filthy, dust covered box. Or what treasures might be lurking under the piles of musty linens....boy, I really make it sound appealing, don't I?

The only things we came home with were this old canning jar, 'cause I love them and like to put more junk inside of them,

and this basket (that the seller touted as being an egg basket, but I am pretty sure it is actually a golf ball basket...either way, it works for eggs). I needed a basket to carry my eggs into the house. I am not known for having a fabulous memory, and as Miss Effie and I say, we don't multi-task as well as we used to, so I generally forget to bring an egg carton out with me when I do chores in the evening. My forgetfulness has resulted (more times than I care to admit) in me stuffing eggs into my deep Carharrt coat pockets while I carry on with the rest of my business, only to hear a crunch later as I bend down to fill a water bucket, or clean out a feeder, leaving me with a pocket full of soupy, scrambled let's see if I remember to take the basket out with me.

The other inhabitants of the farm found different ways to entertain themselves and pass the cold January day.

Rooster Cogburn struts about proclaiming his superiority over any and all that reside here.
Ande follows me (at a ridiculously close proximity) generously offering his assistance.Cinnamon, the barn cat, comes along during chore time to act as an over zealous Walmart greeter, schmoozing with all the critters.

.....except the chickens, he has a deep fear of chickens (he is contemplating his escape in this photo).
And then there is Emma. Emma doesn't care about cabin fever...or anything else really. As long as she has something fun to roll around in.....

...and, of course, her funky, mowed over, falling apart, constant companion Jolly Ball, she's happy.

Brown Kitty has found that if she tips the heated water bowl to empty it, it makes a lovely place to warm her feet on a cold January day.

I guess we all have to do whatever it takes to get through the long winter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sheepie road trip

Today we took Isabella and Duncan to their new home in Wisconsin.

Much of what I do here with my sheep would be considered a hobby by most. After all, I am doing what I love to do and I adore each and every one of the fuzzy and feathery creatures that reside here. This is what makes me happy. The down side is, that this is also what I do for a portion of my income, so I often have to look critically at my little friends, deciding which sheep are going to fit in best with the goals that I have set for my flock, which will produce the best fleeces for spinning, which have the best conformation traits that I want to carry on in my future lambs. Whenever I have sheep that are not going to fit into my breeding program, for whatever reason, tough decisions have to be made...this is my least favorite part of raising these lovely little sheep. I hate letting any of them go, but unfortunately, I can't keep them all.

Once the decisions have been made, I am very careful about finding suitable new homes for my sheepies where I am confident that they will be cared for in the manner which they have become, spoiled. We found just such a place for Isabella and Duncan with a very nice couple in Wisconsin that needed some companions for their Shetland ewe who recently lost her buddy.

Isabella was the first ewe lamb born here in '07 ( also known as the year of the ram lamb overload), and is the subject in one of my favorite lamb pictures ever....yeah, her tail is a little long, but she was still pretty darn cute.

Here they are in their new home getting acquainted with their new 'sister', Pepper ( why are black sheep so difficult to photograph?).

Duncan, a wether, wasn't sure what to think of their little dog...he's used to our BIG girls.

The sheepies will have to get used to the beautiful view from their new pasture.....where we live in Iowa it is much more....uh..flat....treeless....yeah, we basically live in the middle of a corn field.
It was a good day. I am so happy the sheep have found a good home, and as for us, after enduring the first half of this eternal winter, it was nice to get away for the day and enjoy the heat was over 20 degrees ABOVE zero today! On the drive along the Mississippi river, I was reminded how plucky we Midwesterners are. The photos are blurry (taken out the window of a moving vehicle...dirty window of a moving vehicle) but these are some of the ice-fishing villages that pop up on the river once the ice is solid enough. Yeah, frigid temperatures...let's go out on the ice, cut a hole in it, and hang around there all day hoping to catch a fish...awesome! Generally speaking, I think there is more beer consumption going on than fishing....just a guess.
Oh, yes, I added a different blog roll on here and don't have links to all of my favorite farmy blogs, if I have omitted yours (it's not that I don't read your blog.... it's just that I forget stuff), or you would like to be added, send me a note or comment and I will add you :-).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Was that my finger that just fell off?

Things are just a little on the chilly side here in Eastern Iowa. When I woke up this morning and turned on the weather report, the poor weather guessers were trying to come up with new, unique descriptions for the degree of cold that is upon us. The fact is, it's just plain cold! When I finally ventured out ( after adorning myself with; 2 layers of socks, a set of Cudle Duds, 4, yes 4, sweaters, Carharrts and my jeans) it was -25 actual temperature and somewhere in the neighborhood of -45 wind chill. It is supposed to get worse than that tonight.

I am a worrier. I worry about my animals out there in the cold when there is not a lot I can do about it. I spent a good part of the morning trying to make certain that everyone had adequate bedding, feed and water, that they were out of the wind and as comfortable as possible. I added some heat lamps into the chicken barns along with 2 bags of extra bedding a piece, which seemed to help to an extent.
That brought the girls from -40 up to a balmy 0 degrees (0 degree?) inside the coop.
The barn kitties have their little houses full of straw that seem to keep them pretty warm...well, that along with the excessive amount of fat that they carry around.
Before we had such a problem with foxes getting our chickens, I used to have a few of my old hens that would run free and then roost in this barn with the cats. The crabby old hens would chase the cats out of the boxes and use them for nest boxes, the cats would later go back in and lay on the eggs. We had a great time telling my 4-year-old grand nephew that the kitties layed the eggs....maybe we should set him straight before he starts school.
I am not looking forward to our electric for this the chicken barns we have 2-250 watt heat lamps, plus base heaters for each of the chicken water tanks. The base heaters are on a thermostat, but when you are talking 40 below temps, you know those puppies are running constantly to keep the water from freezing. We also have separate tank heaters for the ewes, one for the rams, one for the horses, and one for the barn cats (heaven forbid the cats have to walk over and drink out of any other water tank).
While I was tending to my chores I came up with some observations pertaining to frigid weather.
If you are going to buy sweet feed containing molasses, maybe you should not do that whilst the temperatures are 40 below...the feed tends to come out in a big chunk retaining the shape of the bag that it was previously resting molasses in January...hmmmmmm.
If you normally collect eggs twice a day, better make it 3 times at least....eggs don't fare well in this kind of weather.

Whiskers, of any kind, are frost collectors.

I know that most of the country is just as cold right now, so I hope you are all staying warm......I just got some seed catalogs in the mail, so spring is just around the corner, right????

Friday, January 9, 2009

I want to poke 2008 with a stick to make sure it's dead.

Here I am. I am sorry that I have been so neglectful of my blogging duties as of late. Not only have I not been updating my blog, but I haven't been reading the works of my fellow bloggers. It is winter, and frankly, I have been in a poopy mood, which needs to come abruptly to an end (winter and poopy mood). Right. Now. I will leave out all the details of the poopiness provoking events that have been happening, because I know that 2008 was less than stellar for most of us, soooo....
Okay, let's see....just to catch you up to's been cold here. More specifically, cold, ice, snow, ice, freezing rain, snow, cold...and repeat...again.
This ice covered branch, which I thought looked like an ice covered skeletal hand reaching out from under the snow, is kind of representative of how I have been feeling this winter...ooops, there's that poopiness again. Okay, done and done.The horses never seem to be bothered by the cold weather, in fact, Morgan especially seems to relish the brisk temperatures.

As does Jasmine.

Wide load pony, Morgan, covered in snow.

Sheepy news~ The rams were introduced to the girls in their separate breeding groups in the beginning of November and spent a romantic month and a half frolicking about, spreading the love. The girls initially were quite pleased to have the attention of their handsome suitors, but after a few weeks, they were equally happy to have the boys removed from their pens and to be reunited with their girl friends.
I was just as thrilled to have everyone back in their rightful places.
This is what happens when love is in the air and there are girls on the other side of the fence that a rammy thinks he needs to meet. These are 2x8 inch boards that were securely screwed in, plus a hog panel for an added barrier....all I have to say is that I am glad we added the hog panel 'cause there were 4 girls on the other side that have no business reproducing.
Oh, something else fun I did on my winter 'vacation'....
I took a ram lamb in to the vet about a month ago to be castrated. It was a frigid day and when I arrived at the clinic they were finishing up with some cattle, so I waited outside in the cold for several minutes until they were ready for my little guy. The livestock surgery area at the clinic is a large room behind the main clinic with a concrete floor, because, well, they run livestock in there and it can get a bit messy. When the cattle were finished and loaded into their trailer, I brought my little rammy inside for his procedure.

As the vet and his assistant readied the table and equipment, they asked if I was cold, and kindly offered to kick on the big propane heater to thaw me out. We got rammy on the table, and after removing the offending body parts, we were having a bit of difficulty with one of the cords bleeding and it was taking a bit longer than usual to "tie things up", so to speak. While I stood there holding on to poor rammy, the heater that felt so toasty in the beginning was now making me feel rather overheated. I asked if anyone else was hot, and started to take off my coat. Suddenly, I started feeling a little woozy and my ears began to ring, so I stepped off to the side to get away from the heat. For a moment I thought about sitting down on the floor to try to regain my composure, but I looked down and saw that there was cow manure on the concrete from the previous clients, so I stupidly thought, boy I really don't want to sit in that! Stupidly, I say, because the next thing I remember was hearing a loud crack and opening my eyes to find that I had passed out and I was now face down in the very same cow manure that I didn't want to put my behind on. When I awoke from my beauty sleep, and took inventory of my ouchies, it took me a bit to convince the guys that I was alright. After they were sure that I was fine, one of the guys commented on the lovely 'natural makeup' that I was wearing...A.K.A. cow shtuff. I love it when people know me well enough to not take me too seriously.

Other than the bruises and the fact that I put my teeth nearly through my bottom lip (those of you who have seen my teeth understand this), oh, yes and being completely embarrassed, I really was fine.

So, the moral of the story is; if you feel like you are going to pass out, don't think that you are too good to sit in cow crap 'cause it's better to sit in it than eat it.

Here is the resulting prettiness (ignore the overgrowth of eyebrow, it hurts to pluck when your face is purple and green).

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