Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving

These days I say a little prayer of thanksgiving every time I walk outside. I feel the unseasonable warmth and think fondly about my new best friend, El -- Mr. Nino to those of you in other parts of the country.  Here it is December 2 and I bet I haven't worn my winter coat more than two or three times yet. I don't even know where my gloves are. No water buckets have frozen and I've barely touched my propane supply - which, by the way, is selling for approximately 1/4 the price it was two winters ago.

One quarter.

Yes, things are good.

Of course, no relationship is all sunshine and roses. Sometimes you get rain. And fog. And mud. Sometimes you don't see the sun for days.

Heading out for a day in the salt mines. No sunshine here. 

Some of the sheep are more sensitive to the gloom than others. Clementine and Bumblebee were a little reluctant to join the fray this morning.

Stragglers: Noona, Clementine, and Bumblebee

But look at that, Bumblebee is nearly as big as Clementine.


Clementine and a nearly-as-big Bumblebee


There's a blessing if ever there was one.


Clementine: I'm going back to bed. Call me when the sun comes out. 





Sunday, November 8, 2015

The usurper

We had a few more additions to the farm this summer.

Jellybean, the teenager's fancy pony, came home for an indefinite staycation. She's likely to stick around until her original trainer finds another small child just aching to do dressage - the trainer's and pony's specialty.

Um, yeah, not holding my breath.





In the meantime, Jelly is living the life of a wild pony, free to get dirty and play politics with the herd.

Or both.

Poor Annie is taking the brunt of this. Jelly usurped Annie's role as lady in waiting to Queen Josie and defends it a bit too aggressively if you ask me.

Jelly's ambition in action:














And so it was done.



Alpaca apocalypse




Friday, November 6, 2015

Boomerang 0, Emily 1

None of our dogs are working dogs.

More's the pity.

No, they're the laze around and be pampered kind of dogs and Boomerang is no exception.

For the most part, I keep them separated from the farm animals. It's just easier that way. Or it was before we built the new fences this summer.

Ironically, one of the unintentional consequences of all the new livestock fencing was the destruction of the dogs' invisible fence.

Two steps forward, one step back.

At first I didn't worry about it too much, because the new fencing created a very nice dog yard in its place, between the house and the original pasture.

Then Boom figured out how to crawl under the fence into the pasture and he's been doing so at every opportunity since. No matter what countermeasure I throw up.

Usually, it's just a nuisance, cause as good as he is at getting into the pasture, he's hopeless when it comes to getting back out. I have to go get him.

P.I.T.A.

Every so often though, he gets into the field where the sheep are. This pleases him greatly. The sheep not so much.

He chases them around until he's penned as many as he can into a corner. Then he stands back and barks at them until I come and release them.


Good boy, Boom. Way to catch the sneaky sheep. 

Not.

Today, he got his comeuppance.

Once again, the Icelandics are a breed apart.

video


Go Emily.

Guard sheep extraordinaire.







Thursday, November 5, 2015

Twitter Critter

Was thinking recently about all the pictures I take of the farm and the critters that never see the light of day -- despite my best of blogging intentions.

Enter Twitter. 

I think I've got it worked out so that I can post photos straight from my iPhone to Twitter, with the Twitter feed coming simultaneously to Tyche's Run. I'm generally a pretty late adopter of fancy technology, so this is exciting.


I set up Twitter under my farm name -- Blue Sheep Fiber Farm. It's a bit confusing, but I'm trying to force myself to use that name more consistently. 

Does Bingley look confused?

Not crazy about the way it looks on my blog page, but still -- here's hoping it helps me keep up! 

Not that Bingley cares. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Little boy lambs

So, I've got a lot of animal updates to get through.

Pause.

Right.

I've decided the random approach may be best.

I'm trying to avoid overthinking things these days. Too many thoughts. Too little time.

[Shaking head]

So, in no particular order, I'm going to start with the ram lambs, mostly cause Colum got his picture taken this morning.

Icelandic-Mountain lamb that he is, Colum likes to climb. That's his twin brother Dougal on the left.

Colum: Yes, can I help you?
Colum and Dougal are the sons of Emily (one of the crazy Icelandics) and Jerry Lee (one of the Black Welsh Mountain rams and owner of the best BWM fleece on the property; really nice by any standard).

Colum: Yum, honey locust pods. 
These two butterballs have the funny personalities and shapely round figures of Icelandics. Their spectacular fleeces are a hybrid of their two parents - no real tog like a purebred Icelandic would have, just long and fluffy and jet black. I had both sheared last week since I don't trust my ability to keep them clean over the winter. Very nice.

Emily, to her crazy-ass credit, was a great mom. Very devoted and protective and tolerant of her little boys. When I eventually weaned all the lambs, Emily took it hardest. On the upside, separating them from her allowed them to develop personalities that don't include the principle, "Run like hell when you see a human coming." (Smile. Emily and Devon bring out the truck driver in my own personality. ) 



Here, in front of Colum are Fortissimo and Jamie. 

Jamie, bless his little bottle baby heart, is the son of .... um wait, I'm having trouble remembering who his mom was....looking it up now. Ah yes, Jezibel, the mother of Jethro, and Jerry Lee. Jezibel wanted absolutely nothing to do with Jamie from the moment he hit the ground. Which is why I couldn't remember who he came from. She was adamant about it, so he was a bottle baby from the start. This surprised me since she was a pretty devoted mother to Jethro. I had two bottle babies (Clara was the other), both raised in the barn with everybody else. Jamie was, and still is, pretty small, even for a Black Welsh lamb. He's survived two serious bouts with barber pole, but is doing pretty well now. Knock on wood. My strategy these days is simply to feed feed feed the lambs, and in general keep them off the grass until they are much older, or the pastures are improved...or both. This strategy seems to be working. It was hard won. 

I think Fortissimo was one of the last I wrote about during lambing in the spring. He's Lucinda's and Jerry Lee's baby. Lucinda was a pretty good mom and Fortissimo has been easy to care for. His only problem is a tendency to butt people. He's done this since he was only a couple of weeks old. I discourage this (and yes I mean I yell at him and sometimes smack him hard when he does it) and it has lessened over time, but it does mean that when I get around to having some (or all) of the rams castrated, he'll be one of the first on the list. His fleece is pretty standard Black Welsh. Nothing fancy. Jamie's fleece is much nicer than Fortissimo's. Longer, softer, and fluffier.


Behind the homegrown Black Welsh ram lambs are two newcomers. Darcy and Bingley. These two little guys are Cormos. They came from a nearby breeder who didn't want to feed them over the winter. The breeder's flock routinely tests under 20 microns, so how could I refuse? These two were also sheered last week. Their lamb fleeces are like butter. Short, but swee-eeeeet. Their personalities are also sweet, and shy despite having been here for a good while now. I suspect they'll come around eventually -- and grow quite a bit too. Cormos are not known as small sheep. Bingley, the white one, has the most beautiful face. 

Handsome boys.


 You can see how much bigger they are than Jamie, whose head is poking out around the post. And there, in the far back, stretching her little head up to see around one of the other lambs is...um...Tiny Tim.

Tiny Tim, Bingley, and Darcy.

Who's still very tiny. 


And very clearly a she. 

Whoops. 

I'll have to give her back story when I update about the ewe lambs. 



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Like a dog with a bone

Mama P's gorgeous tail.
Mama P: Could you pass the hay please?
So, let's talk horsehair.

Thought I'd given it up, didn't you?

Nope. Not when there are so many of these little guys around, eating me out of house and home. 

Retired ponies don't have a lot to offer in return for all that hay they inhale. 

Except maybe their hair. 

And so I stumble on. Obsessed with horsehair.

I didn't post the last couple or ten iterations of horsehair creations, because, well, they were failures, one and all. And really, where's the joy in writing about failures unless there's also a success to wrap them all up in?

A stunning, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping success.

Haha, no, not there yet either.

But I do think I'm making progress.

I've learned a ton about weaving in the process. I even made myself a new wallet along the way,  while I was trying to work out the details of how to weave a tube. The wallet's made of jute, silk, and cotton. No horsehair, cause it turned out weaving a tube was really the least of my problems, but at least I have a working wallet now.

Most of what I've learned, I couldn't even begin to explain without boring the non-weavers out there to tears. I will say though that I have a much greater appreciation now for the subtleties involved in mixing fat threads with skinny threads. It's just not as straightforward as it might seem. Who knew? Well, expert weavers probably, but, really, how many of those are there these days? I rest my case.

My latest attempts were inspired by a workshop I took from Lisa Hill a few weekends ago. (To the two weavers out there, if you ever get a chance to take a workshop from her, don't ask questions. Just. Do. It. She is a fantastic, inspirational teacher.) The workshop was on a technique called deflected doubleweave. I wasn't going to go at first, cause I thought it was a little out of my league, but a friend twisted my arm and there I was one Saturday morning ready to see what it was all about.

If I ever finish the piece I started at the workshop, I'll post it, but really the most important things I learned weren't about deflected doubleweave at all, they were about me and horsehair.

First, the things I know about weaving wouldn't even fill a thimble, while the things to be known about weaving would fill all the seas and still overflow. So much to learn.

Second, floats. My horsehair solution is floats.

Floats are threads that, um, well, float on top of the fabric, across two or more threads, rather than interweaving over and under every other thread. Sometimes, as with beginners, floats are just mistakes (who me?), but they can also be used deliberately, to create texture and pattern.

I already knew about floats of course. But I didn't know about floats.

So, without further adieu, here's the latest iteration of horsehair weaving, en route, to the next wallet/pouch/bag, or whatever, now designed around a tube, using floats to highlight the hair. Not finished yet, but I'm too excited not to show it. The warp is a maroon cotton, the other weft is black linen. The hair came from Jesse's shiny, black mane. (And if ever there was a pony who needed to give something back...)

Ta da!








What obsession?

Thank you, Lisa, for the inspiration. 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Eh hem, testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

Um, hello. 

My name is Tiny Tim. I'm pretty new here. I don't really know how things work in blogland, but I gather we've been away awhile. 

So, I have a message. 

We're back. 

Can I have a cookie please?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Something's not quite right

I was going to do a lightheaded light-um-HEARTED post (edited -- maybe I'm a bit tired as well) called Raining Bambies today. Both because the recent rains go way past mere cats and dogs, and because ANOTHER baby deer showed up by the barn yesterday. The first baby is still hanging out in the paddock and seems to be doing well. The second baby, sadly, died overnight. I found her in the hay garage this morning. So, no lightheartedness. Just sad.

I'm kicking myself about the second baby. We had a chance to help her and didn't.

When I first noticed her yesterday morning, she was wobbling across the driveway in front of the barn. At first, I assumed the original baby had finally managed to jump the fence and this was she. Something about her wobble though made me approach to check her out.

Well, she was so tiny and bony and so obviously weak -- so much tinier, skinner, and weaker than I had thought she was from a distance -- that one thing led to another and she ended up in a stall in the barn with a bottle of milk replacer, me beating up myself for having left her unaided all these weeks (what is it, three weeks now? more? I've lost track.)

Of course, right about the same moment we're giving her the bottle, I look up and spot, wait, what's that? Oh, look, a baby deer in the paddock. The first baby deer obviously. The one in the paddock is much bigger than the one we've now got in the stall. And the one in the paddock looks fine - big, healthy, munching away.

So, this new one is what? Closer to a newborn? Maybe just a normal skinny, wobbly week-old fawn?

Ok, time to rethink. Except we've already called the game warden, cause I was hoping if the original baby was now dying on me, somebody would come take it to a rehab center.

Once we figured out it was an entirely different fawn, we knew perfectly well that the game warden was going to say put her back outside so her mom can find her. 

So I went ahead and did just that. And, in point of fact, the game warden did eventually call and say put her back outside so her mom can find her. 

She hung around a little during the afternoon. At one point I found her checking out the chickens in the new chicken coop. Beautiful little fawn.



Then she wandered off. I'd hoped she'd found her mom. Or that her mom had found her.

But, not so. First thing I saw this morning when I went out to feed the chickens, was the little girl stretched out on the floor in the hay. I think she probably starved.

I know I know I know we're not supposed to interfere with the deer, but the next time I find a starving fawn, I'm interfering.

And by the way, why is it raining Bambies at my house?!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Making herself at home

By all appearances, baby is perfectly happy right where she is, in the paddock between the barn and the creek.  I don't think everyone feels the same though. Thyme didn't appreciate her company at dinnertime.

Whatchya guys eating? 

Not a hoof closer, Bambi.

Ok ok, I'm going. 






Saturday, July 4, 2015

Move along little Bambi

I'm just gonna pretend I haven't been awol for the past two months. Working hard on the farm. Real progress being made. Finally getting more fencing in place. Etc. Etc.

But what's this? 

Yes, that's an itty bitty fawn standing at the base of the oak tree inside what used to be the goat pen (look close) and is now part of a quarter acre paddock by the pony barn. Yes, she is INSIDE the paddock. 


Best we can figure, she must have been there when the fencing guy closed the paddock with wire nearly two weeks ago now. She's too small to jump the fence to get out.

I only discovered she was there three or four days ago. 

Her mother is NOT with her, though I see Mom in other spots around the property every day. Baby hides in the long grass and thickets when she's not grazing. 

When we discovered her, we opened up the fence where the gate eventually will go, thinking Mom would come take her out over night. But that was three or four days ago and she's still there. Mom checks on her through the fence, but has not figured out how to get her out. I have considered chasing baby out, but I'm afraid I'll chase her away when Mom isn't around and she'll get permanently separated. At least this way, Mom knows where she is. 

Baby can't stay though. Around here, if the wildlife people discover a tamed deer, they confiscate and kill it. I don't want to go there, so cute as she is, she needs to leave. The sooner the better. 

Plus, the poor goats need their paddock back. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

School's out

Sadly, students' essays do not look like this.
Credit Karpeles Museum
Two thousand two hundred and thirty-two.

That's roughly how many essays I've had to grade in the past month. Plus or minus a couple hundred one way or the other. 

My eyes may never uncross. 

At some point I just had to say uncle and something had to give. Yeah, it was the blog. I'm a bad blogger. I know. I know. 

But I'm done now!  Bring on summer. 

Lamb updates to come. 




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hattie gets us back on track

Losing Jethro last week was upsetting in more ways than one. The vet thinks he may have had a pre-existing heart defect, but we'll never really know. The heart problem could itself have been the result of barber pole worms.

Yes, f%*&ing barber pole worms.

Even though the Black Welsh were unaffected by the worms last summer, little Jethro had turned up weak and anemic recently. I had just treated him for barber pole worms a few days before he went down.

For those who might not be familiar with them, the barber pole worm attaches itself, with its teeth, into the lining of the gut and drains the animal's blood, causing severe anemia and eventual death in susceptible animals. Young animals, with immature rumens, are more susceptible than mature ones and I struggled most of last summer and fall trying to save my Bluefaced Leicester lambs from this parasite. I eventually lost Cricket from complications of the worm - pneumonia in his case.

One of the challenges with barber pole worms is drug resistance. They've developed immunity to most of the available dewormers, making them very hard to control. It is possible that the strain we have is a resistant strain. I don't know where it came from, but since I had not had to do much worming before, it probably came in from outside. One of the other animals I suppose. In any case, our struggle only abated last fall when I took the lambs off grass altogether, preventing them from ingesting any more larvae. Around the same time, the weather got cold enough to break the parasites' life cycle.

But temps warmed up recently, with several days in late March rising well into the 50s. Glorious in every way, except for its effect on the barber pole worms.

They can overwinter.

Jethro seemed off and for some reason I checked his eyelids, though I thought I was dealing with coccidia. I was surprised to find pale lids -- a sign of anemia, and immediately dewormed him (too late though, I guess.)

Ironically, because I had just treated Jethro with the heavy-duty, off label dewormer used by the vet last year, she couldn't confirm the barber poles in his case. But this doctor was the same who had pulled Bumblebee, the first BFL to go down, back from the brink last summer and was very enamored with her. I've seen the vet several times since then and she always asks about Bumblebee.

So she asked, "How's Bumblebee? Is she pale too?"

Well, honestly, Bumblebee and her friends are in separate housing, off grass and we're barely out of winter (I mean, jeez, it went down to 14 degrees just a week ago), so I hadn't thought to check her eyes.

I thought we were safe.

I went straight home and checked.

Pale lids all around.

F*******ING WORM.

I spent the week collecting fecals, conferring with the vet, and ultimately launching some heavy duty worming protocols.

And they're not even out on grass yet. We don't HAVE grass yet.

Our best guess is that some of the worms from last summer went into a dormant state in the lambs' guts and the recent warm days caused a bloom. Except for poor Jethro, we caught it early, but I am bracing myself for the summer. I have to hope that the fact that the BFLs are now a year old and their rumens are presumably mature, they will be able to handle the worms better this summer.

As for the new lambs? Well, they are all Black Welsh or Black Welsh crosses and I continue to believe, Jethro notwithstanding, that these mountain sheep are tough little cookies, as befits their primitive status, and they should be ok.

And on that note, I introduce baby #11 and Hattie's first. A Black Welsh Mountain/Lincoln cross ewe lamb. Only minutes old here. She's big. I can't wait to see how her fleece grows out.






             

 
Don't come any closer lady, she's MINE.  
Get your own Easter lamb.




Friday, March 27, 2015

The butterfly flapped its wings in China

and I'm still trying to recover from the hurricane of ill winds over the past 6 months at Tyche's Run.

So very many unintended consequences of the slow fence builders last summer. At least there are upsides to butterflies.

The Leicester lambs arrived to a makeshift, temporary pen with insufficient grass; which led to a parasite explosion and the death of Cricket; which led to my distraction from the main flock; which led to a broken leg in Cain; which led to Cain's need for surgery; which led to the unintended release of the three little Black Welsh rams into the main flock in the middle of breeding season on the same day their original castrations were scheduled and then cancelled; which led to the abundance of unintended lambs this spring while I'm in the middle of a high workload; which has led to my distraction from the main flock; which led to my overlooking the fact that little Jethro, my very favorite little ram lamb, was not drinking; which led to his collapse on Wednesday; which led, ultimately, to his death at the vet school this morning.

I am a very lousy, and very sad shepherd today.

Butterflies, please be still.