Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good-bye summer

It's hard to believe that summer is over already, especially since the temperatures have been so unseasonably warm here in Iowa, but there are signs everywhere that Fall has arrived. I really love this time of year.
I would love to have the windows open to soak up some of the last warm days, but as harvest is winding down, we have had to close the windows while our neighbors finish bringing the crops in to avoid having 3 inches of  corn, soybean and gravel dust covering every surface in the house.

There are still some splashes of color trying to hold on.
 My mums went a little over-the-top this year.
The Straw Flowers are still blooming. I will be cutting a bunch of these for dried flower arrangements.
The Giant Amish Cockscomb is still vibrant...emphasis on "Giant"-some of these blooms are 10-12 inches across. I like to grow them because they are one of my daughter's favorites...she thinks they look like brains....I would tend to agree. 
I was able to salvage a few good pumpkins out of my garden-o-weeds. Most of them are adorning the porch right now, but one by one they are being fed to the sheep and chickens.  
 The sheep and chickens absolutely LOVE pumpkins, and they are so good for them. As an added bonus, raw pumpkin seeds are thought to contain natural dewormer.

Something else that I found in my weedy garden was this Praying Mantis egg case, I always get a kick out of finding unexpected things around the farm. This case could hold as many as 400 eggs, they will hatch out in the spring and become great natural pest control for my if only I could get them to eat weeds....

I also found the former home of a Garter Snake. This guy has moved on to bigger and better things...or at least a bigger and better skin.
There are other signs of fall.
There are some things that go along with the season I don't like.....really don't like, REALLY REALLY don't like-like the expense.
We got our propane tank filled last week.....

I hate to see this guy coming. We have a thousand gallon propane tank to fill, and with propane at $1.37 a gallon...YIKES! Hopefully this will get us through most of the winter. Normally we end up adding a few more gallons around February/March just to get us by until it warms up.
The other big expense is hay. I am lucky enough to have some wonderful neighbors that grow beautiful hay at reasonable prices, I got this gorgeous 4th cutting alfalfa for the ridiculously low price of $3 a bale...unfortunately I was only able to get about 70 bales of this stuff. Most of the hay this year is running around $4 a bale or more. This pure alfalfa is too rich for the sheep and horses fed as is-they would be as fat as hippopotamuses, but I will mix it with some nice (mostly grass) hay that I am getting from my cousin and it will be yummy deliciousness for the critters.
As much as I hate the aforementioned expenses, there is no better feeling than knowing that the barn is full of hay and the animals will be taken care of over the coming winter.
"Why can't we eat all that pretty hay? I promise we won't get fat like a hippowhateveryousaid."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


For those of you that are new to my blog and missed the primer posts on Chicken Math, you will need to read those posts so that you can fully understand the complexities of Chicken Math....even then you will still be confused, trust me on this one.
Prepare to be confused.
Now that the chicks from the spring 'Flood-o-Chickens' have all grown up, it has become apparent that there are lots of boys amongst the ever-burgeoning flock, so the time to enter a new phase of Chicken Math has come. I know, this seems like a wild, ridiculous concept, but we must now delve into the intricacies of Chicken Subtraction.
This lesson took a while for me to catch onto, it was not like a bright bulb suddenly illuminated over my feather-filled head, but more like a dimmer switch that was being slowly turned until 'it' finally came to me....I don't have to just be on the receiving end of Chicken Math! I am a giver, I can spread the chicken love too.

The first step to chicken subtraction was to sort out the extras. Obviously, most of the boys had to go.  I am keeping a couple of roosters....but one can only use so many roosters. The rest had to go. I have no use for that many boys...don't ask me how many, if you've read the previous Chicken Math posts, you know I have no clue. There were also some females among the 'filler chicks' from the hatchery, and I normally keep all the females, but some of them were breeds that I don't keep, either because of temperament or egg size etc. so they had to go as well.

The next phase of Chicken Subtraction started innocently enough, the first victim  recipient of reverse C. M. just kind of fell into my web...err...was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. We had a really bad wind storm one day last spring and ended up with several nests of baby birds knocked out of the trees on our property. I called Jane, our local wildlife rescue person, and she agreed to come and pick up the babies. While Jane was visiting we got to chatting about chickens and she made a comment that she would like to add one or two more hens to her flock, but she did not want to sign up for the hatcheries minimum order of 25 chicks. Well, Jane, I can help you out . Jane was going to take one, but I told her she had better take 4....since they were not sexed, then she would have better odds at having a female or two in the group. I was just looking out for her best interest. By golly, it worked, she took them all, 4 less extra chicks. That was the beginning of Chicken Subtraction.

The next step was to place an ad on Craigslist, just a few chickens at a time so that I wouldn't overwhelm potential buyers. My first ad was for a group of Cubayalas. I placed the ad stating that I had six available and would sell the whole group for $10. I got several responses right away, one was from a lovely couple who called and indicated that they wanted some birds to forage around their acreage and eat bugs-these birds were perfect for fact they loved to forage so much that they were absolutely wild and I could get nowhere near the little boogers. We made arrangements for them to pick up the birds the next day, so I waited until dark when the wild beasties were roosting in the barn, captured them and placed them all in a cage so that they would be ready to go in the morning. When the couple arrived they commented on how nice the birds were and then the gentleman paused for a moment and said, "I thought you said there were six, it looks like there are 8 in there?" I responded by turning away, looking down towards the ground and speaking unintelligible, muffled words into my hand and then promptly announced that we had better get them loaded before it got too hot. The confused couple waved farewell and off they went with their 6...errrr... 8 new birds...Chicken Math.

I still had quite a few to get rid of find homes for. I had a group of Barred Hollands. They are lovely chickens, but again, a bit flighty and they lay smaller eggs than what I want to sell at market. They were somewhat easier to place. Kelly, from OK Acres, was going to be picking up a ram lamb from me so I offered them to her and she accepted. I was going to send all four of them with her, but at the last moment I noticed that a couple of the chicks were looking like they would be roosters, so because she is a friend, I only sent 3. What? So I felt a little guilty.
I later placed an ad for the Buff Rock roosters.

I quickly got a response to my ad for the Buff Rock roos and, once again it was an unsuspecting...errr..... nice couple that was interested. They only needed one boy but when they came to look they had a very difficult time deciding which one they wanted, they were torn between two, so after much deliberation, I offered a solution, "Hey! I have an idea, why don't you take them both for the price of one and then you can keep whichever you like better and give the other away?" Surprisingly, they thought that was a great idea and agreed to take both. Oh, yeah, I Chicken Mathed them.
I tried to Chicken Math my friend Chanin, but she is proficient in Chicken Math skills-she has even more chickens than I do, so she was a bit harder to fool.....I did, however, talk her into a Blue Splash Orpington roo...only one though. I tried to 'accidentally' slip a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte roo in the kennel when she came to pick up the Orp, but she is a clever girl and was able to uncover my wicked plan and went away with just the Blue Splash Orpington. She was a worthy oponent.

My friend Cassie is a fellow chicken hoarder, but has not yet refined her Chicken Math skills to her advantage, so when she came to my house to buy some raw Shetland fleece, I casually showed her the pretty roos.....she now owns 'Ugarte'. There is no shame in Chicken Mathing your friends....if you can get away with it.


A few weeks ago we decided to go to the flea market about an hour's drive from here. I still had a few more roos to get rid of and since I have Chicken Mathed most of the county, I thought it best to try a different venue. So I loaded three roos into the truck and we headed for the flea market. After we found a spot to park at the market, I set the cages out and in no time at all a nice man carrying an empty cage came by, he stopped and admired the roosters. "They are nice roosters", the man said. In my twisted imagination I heard myself burst into an evil laugh, "BWahahahahaha!" In reality though, I said, "Yes, they are. Do you need some?" He thought for a moment and said, "Well, I have about 30 acres and I have a flock of 170 chickens that free-range the property so I can always use another much do you want for one?" I paused and said, " They are three dollars a piece but if you take all three they are free." The man looked quite confused, "I would have to pay for one, but if I take them all they are free?" Clearly he has never been introduced to the principles of Chicken Math. "Well, I guess you can load them all up then!" He. Was. Chicken Mathed.
So, now that most of the extras are gone, I am down to 6 roosters for which I have an add on Craigslist....and Face Book...and another local online classified ad site.....I think people are getting wise to Chicken Math.
I still need to find a home for this guy...
Golden-laced Wyandotte
And these guys..
Rhode Island Red and Blue Orpington.
As well as a few Black Copper Maran roos.
Does anyone want to came and visit? I have lovely parting gifts for one and all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Keeper lambs

It has occurred to me that I have posted about all the lambs that went to new homes, but I completely neglected to post about the lambies that are staying here, so this is a post dedicated to my "keeper" girls.

First we have Crosswinds Natale Holly (Sommarang Edrea x UTS Red Lion). Holly is a beautiful fawn katmoget (Light color on the body, darker legs, belly, chest and face). This little girl is absolutely gorgeous with amazing fleece.

Lamb photo of Holly.
Holly at 6 months.

Her fleece is....well........
I Know, right?
Ironically, when I showed her at Jefferson, the judge didn't like her because of her fleece...he said that it wouldn't yield as much weight as the heavier, coarser fleeced sheep....??? That is OK, I paid to hear that judge's opinion, on that day....I.......hmmm....moving on...

Next we have Crosswinds Menemsha ( Crosswinds Cassiopeia x UTS Red Lion) as a baby.
Menemsha is a lovely mioget ewe with the most buttery soft fleece.

The second picture shows the mioget coloring better...I can't wait until I can see it spun up next spring! I wish you could feel this stuff!
Crosswinds Mountain Laurel (Sommarang Dolly x Sommarang Gilroy) as a lamb.
Laurel is a very pretty girl as well with nice conformation.

Her fleece is wonderful as well. It is a bit longer staple length than the first two girls, but still very soft and crimpy. Her sire microned at 20.7 last fall, I will micron him again this spring to see what his spring micron looks like. I will be repeating this breeding, so hopefully I will have more nicely fleeced spotties in the spring : ).

Laurel is just an adorable lap sheep.
Lastly we have Crosswinds Ashumet ( Sheltering Pines Mirabile Visu x Sommarang Gilroy). I will repeat this breeding as well.

Ashley is a beautiful black gulmoget ( dark body, light legs, belly, and chest with light 'eye flashes'). Unfortunately she is a bit camera shy and I could never get a good picture of her.
Her fleece is quite yummy as well. It is much denser than the other girls, a bit less fine (going by feel alone), but still really, really, awesome and crimpy.
So there you have it, the 2010 keeper lambs.....I can't wait to see what my 2011 lambs are going to look like......I think I am going to need more land..

Friday, October 1, 2010

Where did September go??

I'm not dead! I know it has been nearly a month since I last posted, but early Fall is in full swing and the cooler temps are a rude awakening to the fact that I have a mountain of projects that need to be finished before the dreaded winter months arrive. I have been feverishly, but not very successfully, trying to hack away at that long "to do" list. Just to complicate things, Fall craft shows have started as well and that takes me away to exotic destinations (like Des Moines, Iowa) on weekends leaving me limited time for blogging...or anything else for that matter.
Let's see........I need to catch you up....
The second weekend in September was the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, we go every year, but this was probably the best time I have ever had there. I got to see a lot of old friends, and made a few new ones. There were lots of laughs...and some things that I can't, and probably shouldn't, explain...

I always enjoy looking through the barns with all the different breeds of sheep.

 I think this Babydoll was giving me the evil eye.

 Super hero sheep!

 I am really glad that I raise my little Shetlands-not that I don't appreciate these other breeds, but the men that own this ewe told me that this she is 275 pounds and the ram that they showed that day was almost 380 pounds. For comparison sake,  my heaviest ewe is about 90 pounds.
Big girls!

 Sorry Garrett, I still think these guys look like anteaters....I'm just sayin'.
So that was Jefferson in a nutshell.
Back at home, one of the things that I have been working on is getting the barns ready for winter. We have a couple of barns that desperately needed paint....well, they kind of needed paint...until I went crazy with the power washer and left the barns nearly naked. FYI, power washers will also remove skin...just thought I would throw that out there..there was an incident...don't ask.

Naked buildings.
As of yesterday, I have most of one side done, except the highest point. For those of you that are unaware, I am deathly afraid of heights. Sure this doesn't look that high, but when the wind was blowing at 25 miles an hour and I was trying to hold onto the ladder and a can of paint with tree branches whipping around me, I had to call it quits. Plus, as an added bonus, all of my neighbors were hauling grain and moving combines down the gravel road so every time they passed by the wind would send  a flurry of the gravel dust flying right into my freshly painted barn...which, on one hand made them less glossy, but on the other hand added a designer textured finish that I was not going for.
 Bailie was spotting me on the ladder, so no worries if I were to fall......of course I managed to take a picture...the things I do for my blog readers!
Almost done!
You may be thinking, hey, that building looks a little shiny. Well, it is. The reason for the shiny building is that we are cheap frugal.  A few weeks ago, Gary found a hardware store that was going out of business and discovered a load of exterior paint that was originally 30 dollars a gallon marked down to $5.99 a gallon....sooooo it happens to be semi-gloss, whatever.
 A few of the other things that I am working on, besides getting ready for the next craft show:
- Planning breeding groups for the sheep (yes it's about that time already!). I still need to find another spotted ram...which is getting to be a bit of a challenge.
-I am still sorting out chickens from the previous Chicken Math episodes...more on that soon.
-I threw in the towel on my garden about a month ago, the weather was just not conducive to growing a proper garden this year and I finally decided that trying to resurrect it was taking too much time away from other things that needed my attention, so now I have to pull out the whole mess and burn down everything to kill all the weed seeds that are otherwise sure to take over next year.
-I didn't get near the amount of apples processed this year as I did last year, they were just not the best quality, in fact after using what I could to make jam and apple pie filling, I ended up throwing the bulk of them to the chickens and gave a few to the sheep as well.

 "We think they are just fine, mom."
 "It is really hard to grab a round apple when you only have bottom teeth!"
I am working on an update on the ewe lambs that I am keeping, I will post that soon....really, I will, REALLY.

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