Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Here an egg, there an egg, everywhere.....

My chickens are giving me a glimmer of hope that spring is right around the corner. The last few days I have been getting about 30 eggs a day from my girls, which is kind of crazy for this time of year. I have somewhere between 50-60 hens...I think...I have lost track somewhere along the way. If I start naming off their names I could give you a more accurate really, I could, they all have names. I just choose to not count them for fear that I will realize that, I am, in fact, the crazy chicken lady. Normally egg production slows way down in the winter months, partially from the cold temperatures, but more so with the waning daylight hours. Many people keep artificial lighting on their hens throughout the winter months to keep the girls popping out their little treasures. I always figure that, after they have kept me supplied all summer and fall with eggs to sell at the farmers' market, they should have a well earned rest, so I let them do whatever they would naturally do. After all it's enough work trying to stay warm here in the Midwest winter without the added stress of laying pretty eggs every day.

Although the landscape outside is painted only in shades of brown, I am going to take the excessive amount of eggs as a positive sign that my girls are in on some secret cue from the universe telling them that, even though it may not look like it, spring is coming. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

You go girls!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beware of flying spit!

I haven't been in a bloggy mood lately. I think it is partially due to the fact that a week ago we were reveling in the 60 degree temps, thinking thoughts of spring, and then that all came to a screeching halt a couple of days ago when we were mercilessly flung back into reality with a February snowstorm and more "seasonable" temperatures (that's the local weather guesser's way of saying "freakin cold"). Today was a tad more tolerable, I think the afternoon temp was somewhere around 30ish and as an added bonus, we had bright sunny skies.

It is a really slow time of year for us here. Shearing won't occur for a few more weeks, lambing won't be until the beginning of April, and there is certainly nothing going on in the garden...although, now that I think about it, I do need to get out there and prune my fruit trees and use some dormant spray on them...I digress (as usual). Since the weather was somewhat cooperative, I thought it best that I take advantage of it and get a few things crossed off my 'to do' list. One thing that has been bothering me is the loose fiber on Ande. I really wanted to get a halter on him and start getting some of that flyaway fuzz plucked off since it is loose anyway AND my shearer refuses to shear llamas.

Now, admittedly, I have not been as diligent as I should be in working with the llamas. They really don't require much maintenance and are pretty darn self sufficient creatures which makes it very easy to continually slide them to the back burner, so to speak. Mama llama wants absolutely nothing to do with anyone of a two-legged variety so she demands no attention from people..unless she is hungry. Ande, on the other hand is very "in your face" friendly and because he was born here, I was able to handle him from day one. I got him accustomed to a halter, lead rope, and all the fun stuff that goes along with that. That said, I haven't had too much occasion to continue to work with him on any kind of a regular basis aside from routine shots etc. Soooo, when I went out today with my plan in mind of rescuing that falling fiber. I grabbed Ande's halter and lead rope, fastened the halter on his dainty little head, and thought all was well for a moment, and it was....until Mama Llama discovered my "evil" plot and came running into the barn frantically humming her llama distress hum, which quickly progressed into a llama humming/clucking warning, followed by the backward placement of the ears, to which I responded by yelling, "Don't you even think about it!". By the time those words left my mouth, it was already too late, the spit was flying. And by spit, I don't really mean spit, it is actually partially digested, green, putrid stomach contents, and yes, it smells just like you imagine it would. Poor Ande was caught in the crossfire and was taking the brunt of the flying phlegm, but plenty of it arrived at it's intended destination squarely on my face...and when I say, "face", what I really mean is; face, hat, coat, pants, boots and I am pretty sure some slid down the inside of my shirt... I was afraid to look. All was already lost, and being the ridiculously stubborn (stupid) person that I am, I stood my ground, took her punishment and didn't move until she was convinced that I was not going to hurt Ande. Finally she gave in...maybe she ran out of digestive goo...I guess we will never know the real reason, but she eventually walked away. HA! I win! The only remaining problem, other that the fact that I was now covered in some vile substance and was smelling a bit like a dead squid washed up on the hot summer beach, was that Ande was very distressed at this point. I knew that it was best not to add to his strife by plucking his fleece and making this whole experience something that I would have to call some sort of an animal shrink to talk him down from, so I kept him on the lead for a while, just petting and talking to him until I was sure that his little Psyche had healed.

Now, I don't want people to think that this is usual behavior for llamas. In fact, this is the only time Mama has ever even come close to spitting. She was just being...well, a Mama.

I have no photos of myself after our encounter, probably because after turning Ande loose I immediately went into our basement, next to the washer and stripped off my stinky stuff (sorry for the visual) and promptly started the washer, with HOT water...twice.....with oxyclean...and detergent.

Here are a couple of poor Ande after he was caught in the line of fire....if only this was smellovision.

"Go ahead, B%#ch, make my day!"

Oh, by the way, stay tuned, I noticed today that my Quarter horse gelding needs his sheath cleaned... I am sure that it will be equally fun!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rooster Cogburn performs the Chicken Dance

This morning when I went outside to feed the crew, I saw the full moon still hanging in the western sky sinking slowly to the horizon. As we all know by now, I am easily amused, so I felt it necessary to capture a photo.

I really need to have a camera that I can leave out in one of the barns and have it handy for such an occasion. Often, I start making my way out to do chores, and then I see something that I feel compelled to photograph...something a cool bird, or a bug, or maybe something really spectacular like a cool bird with a cool bug. Then I have to run back to the house to retrieve my camera. I think it used to freak Gary out when I would come running back in. He would look startled, and in a worried voice ask, "what's the matter?". Knowing me like he does, he was certainly imagining that in the short time that I was outside, I somehow managed to impale myself on something, or at the very least severed an appendage. Now, after years of training, he just rolls his eyes and hands me the camera.
Later in the day, I started taking some pictures of the roosters. It was another warm day with record high temps in the 60's, so the boys were all feeling their oats, out scratching around cockle-doodle-dooing. First I started taking some photos of Charles Bronson, he is a handsome Blue Orpington.

This guy is a Blue Splash Orpington...he needs to find a new home.

Rooster Cogburn was just kind of hangin' with Emma....

Until the other two roos started puffing their chests and....well... acting cocky.

Then, Rooster Cogburn apparently did not like the fact that the other boys were posturing at each other, and decided to distract them with his interpretation of the Chicken Dance....Enjoy..
(or not).Oh, yes, we are a talented bunch.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Baby bumps...or my ewes are huge!

Today it was a balmy 60+ degrees outside and I wanted to get some photos taken of my bred ewes before it started raining in the afternoon. Now, this time of year it is difficult to get decent photographs, between the dull grey sky and the nondescript beige(ish) backdrop of dried grass and mud, pictures just don't come out very purty. But the point of these photos is just to give you an idea of belly sizes, so they will have to suffice

Sheepyhollow Lovey was bred to Maxamillion (ag/gulmoget). She is definitely bred and getting larger by the minute. Lovey always clues me in to the fact that she is, in fact, bred, more by her demeanor than anything else. Lovey gets super, well, lovey when she is expecting. Constantly following me around looking for belly scratches and pawing at me when I stop petting her. She is not the most gorgeous ewe, but she has thrown some really nicely conformed lambs with exceptional fleeces.

Lilly was bred to my handsome new spotted ram, ShelteringPines Khazar. I am not sure what to expect from Lilly. She has some minor conformation issues (longer tail) but threw a ewe lamb with really nice fleece two years ago, she was left open last year. Right now, she is probably one of the front-runners in the big belly contest...probably because she was one of the first ewes to throw her booty in front of the ram (she is a bit of a floozy).

Edrea has a more dainty baby bump. Edrea has the most gorgeous fleece, with uniform crimp from neck to breech. I am hoping for a spotted katmoget (or two) from her.
Daisy (right) was bred to Khazar also. She always has lambs with great conformation and fleece. I love her markings, and as an added bonus, she is modified. I should get some wild babies from her! Hmm.. I just noticed that she is standing really weird in this'll have to trust me, she does have good conformation.

Guinevere was bred to Max. This will be her first lambing so I am expecting a single from her...a gulmoget ewe lamb would be really nice, Guinie (hint, hint).
I put Fallon in with Max toward the end of breeding (after a lot of debating), since she was still a bit small. I can't tell yet if she settled, but I won't be upset if she didn't....I think I shall have plenty of lambies regardless. Fallon is super sweet with nice, crimpy, longer staple length fleece.And last we have Willow. Willow is HUGE. Yes, Willow has a ton of fleece, that is true, but if you could see this belly! It's enormous! I LOVE Willow. LOVE her. You can't tell because of her Ag, but Willow is spotted, she has awesome fleece, perfect conformation, great temperament and she has had the most beautiful babies...unfortunately, thus far, she has only thrown rammy lambies. Come on miss Willow, we know you can do it, push out some little girls this time!
Ah, yes, Sage. Sage looks like she is bred. She is not. I kept her far away from the boys. The only thing in there is a LOT of food. She is a pig. And as Nancy pointed out, she is asking a lot of those little legs!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Making stuff / broken furnaces make you fat.

First off, way to go Punxsutawney Phil, we need six more weeks of winter, you little varmint!

Yesterday was the Superbowl, which I probably cared less about than the runway fashions in Milan. My people are not sporty..not even a little bit. We are the kind of people that get out of the way when a ball of any kind is being hurled toward us....maybe that would explain why I was never picked for any team activities in school....except maybe track...I can run, especially if someone is throwing a ball in my direction. I digress....Back to the Superbowl...I thought the Cardinals were a baseball team, so I was confused from the get go. Gary, on the other hand, is a sports fan and as such wanted to have a few people over for the game (you have fun with that honey). Saturday we picked up some snacks and started getting things ready for Sunday's game. As the day went on we noticed that it was getting quite cool in the house. We checked the thermostat and came to the realization that the furnace was dead. Again. For the second time in as many weeks. We called the repair company, only to be told that the technician was out of town and couldn't possibly be out to fix it until sometime on Sunday. You are thinking 'why don't they just call someone else?'. Well, that would be because when we had this guy out for the previous repair we paid the $90 service fee just for him to walk in the door and were told that if he had to come back within 30 days, he would waive that fee. Since it was a relatively warm weekend, we decided to tough it out and wait for him to come on Sunday rather than fork out another service call fee to someone else, and hope that it was warm before our company came.

Wow, that was a really long way to go for a pretty lame story....I get easily side tracked. My point was pretty cold in the house, and in the interest of warming the place up, I baked. I made a banana tea ring, which I make fairly often, and then decided that, hey, I need to use up some pumpkin (for those of you that are new to my blog this might help explain). So I found a new recipe to try- Pumpkin Cranberry bread. Sounded yummy, but I can't ever leave recipes alone, I always like to tweak them. My children can attest to that. I remember my son coming home from school one day when he was in junior high, finding fresh cookies cooling on the rack, he excitedly asked me what kind they were...I think my reply was something like, "Oatmeal...but then I added some coconut..and some sunflower seeds, oh yeah and some cranberries", he looked at me and rolled his eyes and said, in the totally annoying way that only a 13-year-old can, "Gaaawwd, why can't we ever have normal cookies?". Thankfully he grew out of that.

Anyhoo, here is the altered version of the Pumpkin Cranberry bread recipe.

3 Cups of flour (I use cake flour)
1 tablespoon + 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
15 oz. can pumpkin
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 cup water or orange juice
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans


1/2 cup butter (sorry, I cannot condone the use of margarine..ever)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flour

Preheat over to 350. Grease 2 9x5 loaf pans.

Combine-flour, spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin,eggs, oil and water or juice in large mixer bowl; beat until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stir until moistened, fold in cranberries and nuts. Spoon batter into pans.

For topping; Beat butter and sugar until fluffy, add flour, mix until crumbly and sprinkle on top of batter before baking. Bake 60-65 minutes.

Let's just say we went through half of the banana bread and almost a whole pumpkin loaf before anyone even came over. What?? It was cold. We finally did get the furnace back on, just in time too, 'cause if I would have had to bake anymore, the 'fat pants' were gonna have to come out.

Since Gary and the 'sporty people' were watching the game, sister Marie and crafty niece, Sarah, came over to entertain me. Marie lives in town and has a pet sheep (Lilly) that she keeps here at the farm. Last year I saved some of Lilly's fleece after shearing and wanted to do something special with it for Marie for Christmas. The problem with this being, I am a shepherd who has minimal spinning skills and I don't even know how to is where crafty Sarah came in. I bought a pattern for making felted sheep, that Sarah was kind enough to knit up for me using Lilly's fleece. We felted it here and I stuffed it (yeah, I'm super talented). Then, since Lilly has white on her face and white socks, I took some of Ande's fleece and used a felting tool to put the proper spots on her. I never did get around to putting eyes on the darn thing before I gave it to Marie, so she brought it over on Sunday and we finally got it finished...except for adding a bow.

Real Lilly

Stuffed Lilly

Real Lilly

Stuffed Lilly

I can't publish the pattern on here, but you can get it from for $5. So that's how I spent Superbowl Sunday.

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