Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It was just a matter of time...

The twelve-year-old and I went to a nearby fiber festival over the weekend. The festival had a sheep show and sale.

In a building filled with hundreds of sheep, the twelve-year-old found the very sweetest one -- a charming little Lincoln Longwool spring ewe lamb.

You see where this is going? We were goners. We registered for a number to bid on the lamb, just in case.

Um, yeah, she went for three times more than the cap I had set in my head. Several others from the same breeder went for similar prices.

But two little Lincoln lambs went unsold.

Long story short, we came home with both in the back of the car. We're running dry on new names these days, but here they are.

The one with the yellow tags is a half-brother to the charmer we were originally after. Turns out he is just as sweet and friendly as his sister. No plans to breed here, so he will be visiting the vet soon. The one with its head down is the shyer of the two. She is only two months old and was just weaned the day before the show. Her bewilderment now is apparent, but she will have a good life here, with her new lamb buddy and a pen full of goats.

Got a bunch of non-living fiber stuff too. Pretty exciting day all in all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are you my mommy?

A big, hungry cowbird baby waiting for food from its tiny chipping sparrow mom.

From the archives for Wild Bird Wednesday.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I remember sunflowers

Wow, you guys have no idea. Thanks to your t-post comments, now when I look at the clipart of sunflowers by my old barn I think of this:

This is my clipart rendition of an actual mailbox from my past. A very special mailbox that I hadn't thought of in twenty years. It was made of metal (and there the resemblance to t-posts end), ten feet high, and planted beside the driveway across the street from the house I grew up in. In the suburbs. In the South. In the sixties and seventies.

You may think, Wow, pretty kitchy, but it wasn't. It was beautiful and quirky. And it made it super easy to give directions to our house. Turn right, come down the street and our drive is directly across from the mailbox with the sunflowers. How great is that?

The man who lived in that house and who created that mailbox was a metal worker from Poland. He and his wife were concentration camp survivors. I don't know how they ultimately landed on that quiet, dead end street in the American South, but they did. Most of his living came from creating ornamental metal work -- railings and such I think. He had an old green and white pickup truck with his own ornamental white railings all around the bed. This made him easily spotted anywhere in town. Hey look, there goes Mr. L. 

At heart he was an artist. I know this because at home he was surrounded by his sculptures. The rest of us ordinary folk had grass and trees in our yards. Not even flowers. But his lawn swept up a steep hillside filled with art. Now, decades later, I still remember the graceful bronze ballerina under the eave of his house and the running deer poised mid-leap halfway up the hill.

When I was very small, my father, a professor and umpteenth generation Southerner, and this metal artist from Poland, would occasionally get together to play chess and talk theology. I tagged along once to peek inside the man's house, which turned out to also be filled with metal sculptures. I could not have been more than five years old. In my mind's eye, I can still see the miniature figure of two rabbi's arguing. They sat across a table from each other and pounded their fists on its tiny surface. One rabbi was captured as he lept up from his seat and knocked the table up on two legs.

When I was older, my mother commissioned a beautiful menorah from Mr. L as a gift for my Methodist father. It hung in a place of honor over the fireplace in my parents' house for years.

When my real sunflowers bloom against the old barn in a couple of months, I'll think about that mailbox and my childhood on that quiet dead end street in the suburbs and smile.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I see sunflowers

This is the long view from our back window. Three old farm buildings. The large one in the back is the big barn. I have optimistic plans for renovating it in the next few years. The red one on the right is the mower shed. It's in useable condition, though I'd like to use it for something other than the lawn mower some day. It has a great southern exposure which I'm sure is lost on the mower. Finally, on the left is a very old animal barn. The roof is bad, filled with holes, and the timbers inside, once beautiful, are pretty much rotted out. It has to go. Not this year though. It's not high enough on the priority list.

Truthfully, I've also grown a bit fond of its simple weathered lines out my window. A lovely walnut grove shades it on the left, but the righthand side sits in unobstructed sun all day long. 

It's too far from a water source for a serious garden and too doomed to demolition to invest much effort in, but wouldn't it look great with a row of sunflowers against that southern wall? The last couple of years, we haven't been settled enough to do much planting in the spring, but ever hopeful, I've bought seeds anyway. They've piled up. Time to clean out that drawer. Like I said, I'm not willing to invest much time or effort here, but it didn't take me much to dig a little trench along the old foundation line and drop in the seeds from four different packs of 12 foot sunflower seeds. Some were a couple of years old, so we'll have to see what comes of them. I have no plans to weed, thin, or even do much in the way of watering. Hope it rains.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hard day to be a bird

I was going to get an updated picture of the baby robins this morning for Wild Bird Wednesday.

But this time they really are gone. Here's the empty nest. Sometime between Monday afternoon and this morning (Wednesday), a predator got them. Mom went down fighting. I'll spare you the pictures that prove that.

I can't say who did it. I suspect raccoons. Batman, the feral cat, would also be a good candidate except that he is injured at the moment with a gimpy back leg and I can't see him climbing up to get them.

The exact same thing happened to another nest last spring in the mower shed. I was so hoping these guys would fare better. I put up not one, but two security lights, including those creepy blinking red ones on the outside of the shed. I probably should have put one inside the shed as well.

The mourning dove eggs are also gone.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The goats get nekkid

People usually assume our goats are sheep. This is understandable. Until yesterday they looked like sheep.

Doc, in full sheeplike regalia, indulging in a bit of bark. Donnanoble with her nose to ground.
Doc says, 
Yum, I am a goat.

The full crew left to right: Rosetyler, Marthajones, Donnanoble, Riversong, Doc, Ameliapond.

With summer right around the corner, it was past time for a change. It's hard to find shearers willing to work with goats. In this neck of the woods we've got sheep shearers and alpaca shearers, but not too many goat shearers. I selected a pair of experienced alpaca shearers who were willing to give it a try.  Bless their alpaca-loving hearts. :)

They came yesterday and not a day too soon.

My expectations for these fleeces were low. The crew should have been sheared in the fall, but weren't because of the timing of their arrival at Tyche's Run just as the cold weather arrived, the building of the new barn, my abject inexperience with goats, their complete lack of handling experience, etc., etc., etc.. My bad, all. From what I could see from the outside they were dirty and matted. Goats, charming, but messy.

We began with Riversong. I picked her to lead the way because she is the alpha doe and generally the bravest. I wanted to set the right tone for the rest of the crew. They were all eyes and ears.

The rest of the crew, Um, what's going on here?

Riversong was an excellent role model for the others. Very patient and calm. She needed to be, because she was matted clear down to the skin. The humans were a bit discouraged. She took at least an hour of slow, careful work.

Riversong, I am not a poodle. I am a goat.

To lighten the humans' mood, I put Donnanoble up second. Her fleece is entirely different from Riversong. Lighter, fluffier, and doesn't hold dirt and muck the way some of the others do. I didn't think it was matted.

Donnanoble, Please be gentle. I am not a goat. I am a delicate flower.

Her fleece came off like a cloud (albeit with a bit of flakey skin...).

In the end it took close to five hours to shear six 50lb goats. Not because the goats were difficult -- just because the fleeces weren't in great shape, there was a lot of matting around the legs and delicate parts and it took a fair amount of scissor clipping in addition to the shears.

But we did it! The goats are ready for summer.

And they look like goats! Small ones at that.

Here are some pictures of the raw Pygora fleece. These are quick shots with the iphone. I'll take better pictures if I can get the fleece cleaned up enough to warrant the time. There is alot of work to be done to salvage any of the fleece.  A bit of a Pygora primer:  Pygora fleece comes in three versions, varying along a dimension from mohair-like (Type A) at one end to cashmere-like (Type C) at the other end.  All six of our goats were expected to be Type B, which means some characteristics of each. Even amongst them though there are clear differences from more A-ish to more C-ish.

Ameliapond's A-ish fleece. Solid white, clear locks, lots of luster.

Donnanoble's C-ish fleece. A light off-white color, few distinct locks, slight luster. So soft it's hard to feel on your fingers. 

Riversong's A/B-ish fleece. Dark gray/black, would have had locks I think, but solidly matted/felted. Oy. Oy. Oy. May or may not have luster. Hard to tell. Sorry River. We'll do better next time. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Um...birdbrain...that would be me. Where is my fact checker?

A fact checker would have seen this lovely, hardworking, worm-bearing mama robin.

Yep, that's right, the baby robins are alive and well.  They are just very, very quiet.

Bird update

I'm afraid the little robins didn't make it. It wasn't a predator. Mom just didn't know what she was doing. That's my best guess. I hope my presence wasn't an influence. :(

I did see Mom sitting on the nestlings the first couple of days -- like they were still eggs. But I never saw either her or Dad bringing food to the nest. I never once heard the babies peeping. I think they just died. Mom and Dad are still around, so I'm hoping they try again -- but somewhere safer than by the open shed door.

As for the mourning doves, there is still hope, but I won't be following them.

After I discovered their nest and eggs, I looked up info on doves. It warned that doves are easily spooked into abandoning their nests, eggs, and even nestlings. So, I haven't gone back to peek in on them. I can see the location of the nest from the house, but it's so well buried in the vines that I can't see the nest or bird itself. Oh well, maybe I'll be able to tell what happens from a distance.

Right around the house we also have several pairs of cardinals, chipping sparrows (I think), and blue jays, as well as several other pairs of robins. It's a busy spring!