Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A cold day in January

Solar power, such as it is

Barn wall as solar collector - thawing pony buckets frozen solid overnight
Licorice coveting goats' second cutting hay.
Amelia: I know you're there pony. Go away. Can't you see I'm eating for three here. 

Noona: Is that food?  
Food groups

Brianna and Bumblebee tucked in among the big guys

Bookends Clementine and Wembley

My Clementine

Too busy to chat

Tiny Tim with the big girls, Caterpillar and Bo Sheep

Loretta. A meal of her own

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fox Scream

So, about that coyote footprint.

The dogs were acting weird this morning during their pre-dawn backyard break. Weird enough that I went outside to see what the deal was. They were lined up at the fence facing the paddocks behind the pony barn, staring into the dark. And from the dark came the creepiest sound I've ever heard. Silence, punctuated by a scream, every 10 or 15 seconds.

Made my heart stop.

There were no other sounds, which just contributed to the freakishness. No skirmishing, no tramping through the leaves or branches, no sheep baaing, or ponies stomping. Just this bizarre scream.

Pictures of coyotes marauding through the alpaca pen came unbidden to mind. Alpacas can make some pretty odd sounds, so I had to cram on my boots and run out to check on the poor guys.

Of course, the pacas were fine, if a little spooked to see me in the predawn dark, so I went back to the house and forgot about it.

Later I happened to mention it to my friend across the street.

She immediately asked, "Did it sound like a girl screaming?"

"Why yes. Yes it did. It sounded JUST like a girl screaming. Did you hear it?"

Turns out she heard it coming from behind her barn a couple of days ago.

It wasn't a coyote.

It was a red fox!

I feel so much better. Of course the tracks up the drive and by the house MUST have been a fox. Not a coyote.

I'm pretty sure a fox is not going to kill my sheep or alpacas.

But now I really want a night cam.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

To shear or not to shear

Last year, I noticed that my Black Welsh sheep began to lose their fleeces around Christmas time. Since it was my first year with them and most of the ewes were pregnant, I wasn't sure if it was the norm for them or just a pregnancy thing. Most of my other sheep -- the longwools in particular - don't ever show a rise. On the other hand, the Icelandics certainly do. 

in any case, Christmas seemed early. 

The light colored horizontal line is the point where the new
fiber (above the line) started growing through the old fiber
 (below the line). For good measure, the point where they
crossed felted solid. Total loss. :( 
By the time I managed to get a shearer to actually turn up (grr) to shear, it was July and all the Black Welsh fleeces were long since ruined. Not just from the months of ragged shedding, but also from so many long weeks in the heat and humidity. They were either felted on the outside like a shell (yuck). Or, just as bad, they were felted at the point of the rise -- where the new fleece grew through the old. 

I was relieved to finally get the fleeces off the animals, but was so disappointed to have nothing to show for my first year of tending the flock. 

So this year, as I notice the fleeces loosening, especially on the lambs, I'm determined not to let the same mistake happen. 

If we lived in a milder climate, like, oh, say, Wales, I'd shear them right now. 

But we don't, so I won't. I've got my fingers crossed for the return of mild Mr. Nino, but truthfully, we're just as likely looking at two more months of nights in the teens and single digits. Brr. Early March is probably the soonest I will dare to shear.

If I can manage to keep the fleeces from felting in the meantime, I've got some lovely things to look forward to. 

One of my favorites? 


Lovely little Brie is the daughter of skittish Black Welsh Eloise and dopey puppy dog Lincoln longwool Johnny Blue. She is the only lamb from the entire flock of last year's Black Welsh offspring that I am certain is Johnny's daughter. In fact I suspect she is Johnny's only lamb. Period. 

And her fleece is wonderful. 

I gave a couple of the fleeces a good tug this morning while their owners were busy at the hay feeder. You know, just to see if they were starting to release. (Not because I particularly enjoy harassing the poor sheep that way.)

This is what I got.

The lock on the left is from one of the older Black Welsh ewes. Short, crimpy, and still in nice condition. Pretty typical of the flock. 

The locks on the right are Brianna's. (Ok, I took a couple from her - I was so enamored.) She's got the length and a hint of the curl of a longwool, but otherwise the fineness, crimp, and color of the Black Welsh. Black as night and soft as a whisper in the hand.

Brianna - Black Welsh x Lincoln cross
Of course, to top it off she's as cute as she can be. She stands out in the crowd of little lookalike black lambs. She's so much boxier and fluffier than the rest of them.  Plus, her head sits right smack down on her shoulders with nothing in between, while the rest of them sport long slender necks that give them the look of tiny deer, rather than sheep. 

Yes, she's a cutie. Black Welsh x Lincoln turned out to be a great cross. I wish there were more of them. 

Not that I don't love all the little purebreds too. ;)

Friday, January 15, 2016


Found this print yesterday on the driveway right by my front door. The day before that I found a whole trail of similar prints emerging from the woods across the road, marching straight up the drive by the pony barn into the alpacas' area before disappearing.

Bigger than a cat's paw. Smaller than a big dog like our Boomerang.

Notice the claw prints at the top.

I'm 99% certain it's a coyote print.

I hear a pack yipping out by the creek in the fields behind our pastures almost every night, but I've never seen them come so close to the house or barns before.

We have so many little bitty sheep. It's a worry.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

And then it was over

Disappointed doesn't begin to describe my feelings toward Mr. Nino right now.

I'm trying to remember the good times.

The cool, carefree days in sweatshirts and jackets. The cascading water, straight through the hose to the buckets. The easy flow of animals in and out of fields still tinged with green grass and bramble stems. In and out of doors that slid easily on their tracks, back, and yes, forth.

The bare hands.

The sleep without worry.

Even the mud.

The promise of an endless stream of the same simple joys, straight through the winter that wasn't.


Yes, yes, ok, I admit it.

He never actually promised.

We were warned.

They all said, "Mid-January -- after that we don't know. Other forces could drive him away."

Mr. Arctic Blast.

Damn him.

Two degrees Fahrenheit.

Right on schedule.

George: We don't mind. We don't own any sweatshirts. It's parkas or nothing for us.  

Bo Sheep: Yeah, not so crazy about the mud actually. You try schlepping around in it all day every day in bare feet.

Clementine and Pink: Really, it's all about the hay. Did you bring the hay? 
Clementine: Hang in there Mom. He'll be back.