Friday, May 31, 2013

Weird stuff. Weirder stuff than my usual weird stuff.

See what I did there? I lured you in with the cute lamb photo before I show you all the weird stuff.

Some of my hens have been feeling particularly artistic as of late. This masterpiece was created by a Barred Rock hen who has asked to remain anonymous. 

 Note the subtle use of color, and interesting use of texture variation.

Some industrious hens have been working overtime. The egg pictured below on the right was so large that I couldn't close the carton. 
Some hens, on the other hand, have not been pulling their weight! The green egg on the left was about the size of a quarter.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the hens are trying to tell me something with their eggs using some sort of secret chicken language. This is an egg I found quite some time ago, and I am still trying to decode the secret message encrypted on the shell. What could they be saying??? I think they are thanking me for all that I do for them. A more likely explanation would be that my chickens are possessed.

This isn't exactly weird, but my apple and pear trees are looking as though they will provide a bumper crop of fruit this year. After last summer's harvest of exactly zero apples, and a few handfuls of pears, this is a welcome change.

Because I don't spray chemical insect control on any of my produce, I wanted to employ some natural methods of pest control this year to ensure that I retain as much of my fruit crop as possible. I decided to acquire, and hatch out, some Praying Mantis egg cases since Mantids are great pest control, but first I had to find some. Upon hearing about my search, my cousin gifted me an egg case that he found on his property, and later, my sister Marie found the Holy Grail of Mantis cases. Marie's home is close to a tree farm, and the trees there were loaded with cases. My family fully understands, and embraces, my affinity for all things strange and they know what makes me happy, so this is what Marie brought me for my birthday. Don't worry, the tree farm will be fine without these cases. The trees get sold and move to new locations so these Mantids are much safer at my farm.

In early spring I placed the egg cases strategically around the farm, close to fruit trees, Raspberry bushes and Blackberries, and I waited. It has to be warm for a few weeks before the nymphs will emerge...although, as an aside, when we were kids we found a couple of egg cases and brought them into the house. Unbeknownst to our mother, we left them resting atop the refrigerator in the kitchen, upon which they hatched. Greeting my mother the next morning were hundreds of baby Mantids dancing about on the fridge, the counter-tops, the stove. I guess it's always warm enough in the house for them to hatch. Poor mom. Still, it was probably better than the time we brought a bucket of Garter Snakes into the basement. I digress...that's another story. 
The weather here bounced back and forth from hot, to nearly freezing temperatures all spring, but I kept checking and waiting for the eggs to hatch. Finally, after a few consecutive days of warm, humid weather, eureka!! They started hatching. And hatching. And hatching. 
Look away if you have an aversion to creepy crawlies.

So hard to photograph these tiny, little guys.

"You lookin' at me?????"
These tiny alien look-alikes emerge with a voracious appetite, and they are pre-programmed to start eating other insects as soon as they hatch, so the cute little fellers have added incentive to leave the nest quickly, otherwise, it rapidly turns into a scene from the Donner Party-insect style. 
Within an hour or two, all of the hatchlings had disappeared into the brush. 
Go forth my minions, and do my bidding!

Cute lamb pictures next time. I promise!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Warning! So. Many. Pictures.

What a difference a year makes!
 Last year the pastures were nothing more than dusty lots offering only a few measly blades of dry grass for the sheep to munch on.
Today, however, is a completely different story! So much grass!
I wanted to get some photos taken of the lambs out on pasture since I am now officially done lambing for the season, so I grabbed my trusty camera and headed for the pasture, but I ran into a little bit of trouble trying to get the photographs.
This is Edrea's ewe lamb...I, that's dandelion fluff...errr..... 

This is one of Lilly's lambs. Maybe.

I think we all know who this is...I don't know what he's doing-I don't ask anymore.

Okay, time to move to shorter grass for this photo op, but first, the rundown of lambing 2013.

We finally finished lambing on Monday morning. This was the most drawn-out lambing season that I have had to date, and I will not be repeating that scenario anytime soon...or anytime-ever. Spreading it out seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect, not so much. The first lambs were born April 12th, and the last were born May 20th. I much prefer the hectic two-three week sprint that I normally have, to this nearly 5 1/2 week marathon. If I was lambing out 100 ewes, the longer time frame might make sense, but not for this small flock. I now have lambs that will be ready to wean by the middle of July, and some that won't be ready until late August-which also throws off my vaccination schedule ( I like to vaccinate everyone at the same time if they are closer in age). 
The final count was 16 lambs:10 ewes, 6 rams. In addition to being long, and drawn out, it was also a very strange lambing season. A few experienced moms-that historically have always had twins-gave birth to very large, single lambs this year. And when I say very large, I mean huge. I spoke with my vet about the unusual number of single births, and we decided to blame it on last summer's drought. No scientific basis for that conclusion, just a guess. He had also been seeing some strange things with calving this spring. I am sure there is some correlation between the low birth numbers and the drought. Last summer was also the first year ever that the sheep were fed hay year round because of the lack of pasture. 

So, here are some lambie pictures. A lot of lambie pictures. 
I will be evaluating lambs over the coming weeks, and I have a few ewe lambs that I am already planning on retaining, pending their final evaluations.
You've already met Holly's girls, both of whom are staying here. OH! We actually have names too. We went with Shakespearean characters.
Luciana and Olivia. 

 I can't really find any faults with these girls. I am really loving the fleece.

Lilly's ewe lamb Cleopatra. This one is a little corker!

Llama surfing.

Cleopatra's twin, Rosaline

Ashumet's ram lamb, Sampson. I am waiting to see how his fleece turns out, he is very soft, but doesn't have much crimp yet, but many times these 'dog coats' end up really nice. 
It looks like he will have striped horns-love those!

Kind of leggy right now..

Odessa's ewe lamb, Celia.

Love this little girl's conformation.

Athena's girls. Bianca and Beatrice. Athena is a first-time mom and she had twins. Bianca is teeny tiny.


Laurel's boys
Romeo and Sebastian

By now you may have noticed a particular theme with markings on these lambs? I have (completely unintentionally), produced an entire lamb flock with essentially the same color, and markings. White heads and varying degrees of socks. Cute, but I need my wild spots back! Also, I'm going with a black-based ram this fall for breeding. He can carry moorit (brown) if he wants to, but he can not be moorit. Out of these 16 lambs, I have 14 moorit-based lambs, and only 2 black-based. For those of you not familiar with Shetland genetics, brown is recessive, so brown+brown equals brown. Obviously, I knew that I would get all brown out of my brown-based ewes in this lamb crop, but I have several black-based ewes as well, so I was hoping for the possibility of a few more black-based lambs out of those girls. The black ewes carry moorit though, so when bred to a moorit ram, those recessive moorit genes were pairing up everywhere this year.

Edrea's ewe.
Oh, look! She's moorit with a white head and legs. So unusual. 

So much anger, or determination in this photo...not sure which.

Menemsha's ram, Winchester. 
He's a big, ole tank. So far he has a dog-coat so he should end up with nice fleece as he matures.

Bella's twin moorit lambs...with white heads..and socks. WOW! Shocking, I know! I don't have many pictures of this set of twins, or the very last set of twins since they haven't been out of the jug very long.

Ewe lamb Emilia

Luna's twins. The ewe is named Iris, and the ram is Leonardo. 
Can you guess the marking? Good job! Moorit...white heads...aaaand socks.

That's all for now. 
Off to see if any lambs are lost in the grass.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lambing, round two.

This is a quick lambing update before things get any crazier here. 

We had one lamb born last night. One GIANT ram lamb.
I thought Ashumet was expecting twins, but last night she gave birth to this single, practically full grown, ram lamb. Of course that is an exaggeration, but he is huge. Poor girl had a hard time getting this one out, and to make matters worse for her, he also has large horn buds, so I am sure mama is feeling a little sore today.

Black, yuglet gulmoget.

 Mama Llama is doing her quality control inspection.

I'm not sure what to think of his fleece yet, but his purse is very crimpy. Time will tell.

There are (at least) 4 other ewes that were bred right around the same day as Ashumet, I know this because the second that the ram was introduced to his ladies, romance ensued. He was not shy in the least bit. So I expect the next couple of days to be a bit hectic.

Sommarnag Ivar is the sire to this ram lamb, as well as the rest of the lambs that are due. I leased him from my friends Craig and Cindy Bowser at Whispering Winds Farm. I should get lots of spots and great horns!
Off to do a barn check!

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