Monday, December 29, 2008

Weather and ducks

Now the temperature is just above freezing and it is raining...a lot!  Today there's also hail, wind and thunder.  The snow is slowly melting but the compact snow is like ice sheets and a lot of water is collecting in the fields:
We lost one more critter due to the weather.  On Friday our last remaining Magpie duck died.  I had put him in a pen with food and water, and I thought he would make it out of the weather, but Tom found him dead that morning.  I had purchased Magpie ducklings from Holderread's in 1998 to eat slugs.  In 1999 I purchased Pekin, runner and white golden hybrid ducklings from Metzer's.  They ate slugs quite well, but the bald eagles ate them.  I finally figured out that if I put them in an enclosure with string or netting that the killing (and the slug eating) would stop but by then we were down to three ducks- a Magpie drake, a runner hen and a hybrid hen.  You can see them in the photo below from 2005 with the first batch of ducklings they produced:
Now our last rare purebred Magpie is gone.  He lived 10.5 years and likely had a good duck life.  Although we do not have any more purebred Magpies, you can certainly see his influence as well as the runner duck's influence on the ducks we do still have:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Even more snow and ice

We have over 2 feet of snow at this point and the icicles are getting long!

We continue to use the garden cart to haul hay and water to the animals.  Through the snow, it is tough.
The forecast now here in western Skagit county calls for 3-6 more inches of snow starting tonight and continued snow after that until Saturday when it supposed to start to rain.  We are really tired of the snow but not looking forward to the flooding when it all melts either.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Zero degrees

This is a new low for me here.  I have never seen 0 degrees in Western Washington- Tom has though in Whatcom.  (I know I have seen lower in Alaska though).  The problem here is that we are not designed for this much cold.  Our water pump went out this morning, causing much concern.  It turned out to be a frozen pressure hose to the switch so once we added a second electric heater to the pump-house we were able to unfreeze it and now have water again.  We also still have heat and electricity for the house so are thankful for that.  Last night we covered up windows and doors for the barn and feed shed (doubling as a skinny sheep and chick shelter now).  This is in hopes it will keep a little of the chill out.  Every critter has shelter and another of their species to bed down with so hopefully will make it through this bitter cold.  

Now we are just waiting for the next storm to strike this afternoon with more snow, wind and possible freezing rain.  We are trying to prevent catastrophe here by brushing the heavy snow off the structures.  But with the frozen tree limbs we are really expecting some fallen trees and limbs with any wind we get- definitely could lose our power.  We do have fuel and a generator. One of my bigger worries is that I have to get to work somehow tomorrow early morning during the storm- should be interesting.

When we went out to check on critters after fixing the water pump we found all the water was frozen solid- not too surprising at 0 degrees but a real pain.  We knew we would have to bucket water to the animals in the fields 5 gallons at a time.  The tractor and quad would not start.  We had a family Christmas party to go to at 2:00.  So we were able to start up a 26 year old snowmobile and tie the garden cart behind it.  We filled up 5 gallon plastic carboys with water from the faucet near the pump-house that still works and used the snowmobile to haul the water out- 75 gallons total.  Tom's father came out to help us to try to get us to the party.  This worked out well and we made it to the party only 45 minutes late.

There was, however, another loss because of the bitter cold.  My favorite goose Honky died during the night.  He was one of my first geese- a white Pilgrim gander- 11 years old.  He was a character, not friendly but not aggressive either.  In the last couple of years he had become an outcast in the gaggle- he had lost the eyesight in one eye in a goose fight and never seemed to be in the pecking order after that.  I was trying to make sure he was getting food and water (along with the other geese) and all of them seemed to have trouble walking the in cold snow.  I put him in the chicken pen to try to get extra water, food and warmth but despite this in the morning he was gone.  

Friday, December 19, 2008

Even more snow photos

Sorry- we do not usually get this much snow here.  This is the goat trail to the hay barn:

This is Tom bringing hay to the hungry critters:
This is the curving sheep trail:
This is a Gotland ewe blazing a new sheep trail:

Even more snow!

And cider!
These each represent one of the carboys.  The farthest on the right has the most crabapple juice in it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold weather and Cogburn

As the local people know, we experienced a snowstorm last weekend and very cold temperatures since then.  With this, it is beautiful so I felt compelled to take some photos.  But it is also very hard on the animals.  We have an unheated, uninsulated barn but fortunately pretty tough animals.  So they just cuddle up with one another and stay warm through the very cold nights.  The biggest problem is breaking up the ice so they can have water to drink.  

This cold weather is especially hard on older, thinner animals.  We have a rooster that Tom named Cogburn.  He was the king of the barn- the top rooster with the largest "harem" of hens.  In the last few months he stopped being the top rooster and then he lost his harem and his roosting spot.  The last few days he looked droopy.  Yesterday he looked especially droopy although he could still fly, eat and drink.  I put him in the feed shed with food and water thinking it would be a little warmer for him in there.  We found him this morning dead in there.  We have had some interesting roosters including "hitler chicken" who walked like Hitler and a one legged rooster that a neighbor kindly took in as he wasn't doing well with the others here,  but Cogburn was the best of them all.  He was a beautiful bird who strutted around but was never too aggressive.  He will be sorely missed in the barn and in our hearts.

This cold weather is also hard on my first sheep, Ebony.  She has been quite thin for a while but has eaten very well.  This morning she did not want to eat, only drink water.  I knew if she did not eat she would not do well in this cold weather.  So we moved her into the trailer with some heat, hay, grain and warm water.  I am hoping for the best.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

(Re) Introducing Hazel

This  is Hazel- a satin angora rabbit who I sold 2 years ago and have bought back.  This is because both of her parents died and with them the great red genetics they carried.  Hazel is not well behaved.  I handled her daily when she was a kit but despite this she is ornery and therefore a problem for the daughter who was supposed to take care of her.  So I brought her back and sheared her and clipped her nails.  I never had a rabbit attack me before.  Now this occurred after I had started sheared her, and she was upset about it, but when I went to pick up the bits of wool she lunged at me and scratched me.  I am hoping her personality is not inherited!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wisdom tooth blues

I had my last wisdom tooth removed yesterday evening after it had become inflamed and painful. So I had a bad day, but my dentist's day was actually worse so I can't complain too much. So today I wasn't feeling as ambitious as I had hoped and didn't get the farm chores done I had wanted too. I did manage to finish skirting my fall fleeces, weigh them, and take new photos which are below. Now I'll prepare Christmas cards to mail out tomorrow and call it a day!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Goat hoof trimming

Today was goat hoof trimming day.  I trim their hooves every 6 weeks.  I alternate wormers every 6 weeks between ivermectin and albendazole (except I do not use albendazole on the pregnant goats).  I also give Multi-Min every 12 weeks.  The photo demonstrates using a human stanchion.  I do this when it's too much of a hassle to use the milking stand.  If you face forward you can administer oral medications and if you face backwards you can bend over and trim hooves and give subcutaneous injections.  Today Tom helped me with the hooves- usually I do it on my own.  It certainly is nice to have help!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Splitting wood (belatedly)

So I finally found time (and no excuses) to split the wood from the tree felling day.  This should have been done before the rains came- oh well.  Tom was at work today (yeah- he's no longer laid off!) so I went to it.  I used this wood splitter that I love- even this middle aged, overweight woman with poor coordination and a bad back can split wood with it. 
I split wood for one hour and then did animal chores for two.  The sun was out, and our red golden pheasant was gorgeously iridescent in the sunbeams- the photo doesn't do him justice.
Then I had lunch and split the rest of the wood over 2 hours.
Then I took a long hot bath!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shetland wool for sale

I just came to realize that I have wool available for sale.  I am not used to having fall shearing and then wool available this time of year.  So here goes:
This above is the roving from our musket and moorit Shetland sheep- Daphnie, Lou, Hansel and Lily. I carefully sheared the wool from the sheep, then dried and skirted them. I sent them to Z-wool in Michigan for processing. They do an excellent job and this light brown roving is very high quality. It's available for sale for $30 per pound- there's 2# total left. This is roving processed by Z-wool from our Shetland sheep- Suzette, Monette, Darwin, Jenny, and Reuben. These sheep were well cared for to produce excellent wool and then their fleeces were carefully shorn from the sheep, dried and then well skirted to produce 9.5 pounds of wool. This was then washed, picked and carded by Z-wool to make 3.75 pounds left of gorgeous grey roving. It is available for $30 per pound.These are the fall fleeces off of our Shetland rams, Comet and Mortimer. They have soft light grey fleeces with little crimp. They will spin up into very nice soft yarn. They are available after drying and skirting for $10 per pound.This is the fall fleece of of our moorit wether Hazelnut. He has an absolutely gorgeous, crimpy, soft, warm brown fleece that will spin up into lovely, richly colored fine yarn. After drying and skirting his fleece is available for $10/pound.This is the fall fleece off of our Shetland ram Monty. It is a black fleece with medium fineness and dark consistent color. It will spin up into a black medium yarn. After drying and skirting it is available for $10/pound.
These are the fall fleeces off of our Shetland ewes, Wink and Wilma. They are mother and daughter, and it shows.   They both have a gorgeous golden brown (mioget), double coated, long fleece. This wool is striking in it's unusual color and softness. It will spin up into a lovely, soft, golden yarn- great for warm socks. After drying and skirting it is available for $10/pound.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ram bios

The Shetlands Yahoo group email list asked for bios of our rams.  So I typed those up this morning and thought I'd post them here- for those of you not on this list.

Our older ram is Bitterroot Ansel- we call him Jocko. I wanted to produce mioget in my flock so arranged to purchase Jocko from Judy Colvin. We went to Western Montana in January 2002 to pick him up during a blizzard. I had just met my soon-to-be husband Tom in November. On our first date I had dropped off a sheep to be bred just prior to the date, and our second date I had a bale of alfalfa in my car so he should have known what he was getting into, but this was quite a trip to pick up a sheep. We had my Subaru Outback wagon with a large dog kennel in the back. We made it to Lolo Hot Springs and stayed there- enjoying the hot spring that Lewis and Clack had enjoyed. Then the next day we braved the snow and made it to Judy's place to pick up Ansel. He was only 8 months old but had the most wonderful fleece I have even seen (including until now). Plus he handled the ride back well- very good disposition. I thought Ansel wasn't a very inspiring name for him to breed my ewes when he got home so we saw a sign for the Jocko River and decided to call him Jocko. We did not have the time to see Judy's place as we had to head all the way home to NW Washington. We made it back OK, and Jocko got to meet his new flock's ewes upon our arrival. He has been a great ram for us in producing lovely lambs, gorgeous fleece and minimal fence damage. I am currently trying to reproduce him as he will not last forever, and I want to continue his legacy.

His pedigree (with his offspring) is at:

This next bio is for our second ram, Lewis. I had wanted spotted sheep and was not having any luck producing spots with my genetics- all the spotted sheep were agouti and faded. So I made arrangements to purchase a solid black spotted ram lamb from Stephen Rouse in the summer of 2003 (while I was also making at-home wedding plans too). Then there was the issue of transportation. I found a woman who lived south of Missoula who was going to the Michigan Fiber Festival and could bring him back to her farm. So after Tom and I were married and honeymooned in July, we headed back to Missoula in August to pick up another sheep. At least by this time we had a truck with stock rails and decent weather. The only issue was there were horrible forest fires that year and Missoula and Lolo Pass were full of thick smoke and fire fighters. We stayed at the Hot Springs again and then picked up our new ram the next day and headed home. He hadn't been named yet ,and Montana was gearing up for the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's exploration of the area so we thought Lewis would be a great and inspiring name for our new acquisition. It seems to have worked (at least to the degree a ram can be inspired) as he has produced wonderful spotted lambs (yuglet, flecket and HST) for us and continues to do so as we speak (read?).

His pedigree and offspring information is at:

I am pretty thrilled with the rams we have- can you tell?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good/Not So Good pets & More Visitors

This weekend we had examples of good and not so good pets.  First, a good pet.  This is Missy, a cat I inherited from my grandfather when he died.  She quickly adopted the barn as her home and especially likes the hay mound.  This morning I found her sleeping in the mound with a dead deer mouse laying next to her.  Good girl!  She not only is keeping vermin from the barn but protecting us from hantavirus.  She received extra pettings for this.
This is an example of not so good pets.  We found our pump house fairly well tore up.  It's hard to see in the photo, but there's a large hole in the plywood, many of the furring strips are tore off, and there's a dug hole in the ground as well.  Another wall looks just as bad.  Inside the pumphouse we found a dead mouse and a dead rat.  So it's good the dogs were going after vermin but not so good they destroyed the pumphouse in the process.  So not so good pets.  No extra petting today and extra chores for us fixing the damage.
One more good pet- this is a photo of Vanessa waiting patiently for us to finish with barn chores at the gate.  She is our best dog, causes us no trouble and definitely knows not to go in the gate.  She's a pound dog we adopted a few years back who looks like a purebred Chesapeake Bay retriever.  
Now more visitors. Alta came by with three of her ewes to be bred with Lewis.  There's Emma in front with amazing fawn fleece, Syd the dark grey ewe in the middle, and then Buttercup, the moorit ewe who originally came from us.
Then there's Krista who brought over April and Minnie to be bred with our spotted buck Yahoo.
And finally Boris, the buckskin wether eating hay, who couldn't be left alone while April and Minnie are "visiting".  So for one bale of hay he gets to hang out here too.

Shaun the Sheep "Off the Baa"

Shaun the Sheep clip "Save the Tree"