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Monday, January 23, 2012

Gummer Sheep and other Geriatric Creatures

I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about supplemental feeding gummer or broken mouthed sheep?  Chunk, from the post below, routinely comes into the barn for a couple of cups of either sheep feed or pelletized alfalfa but she is still losing condition (and is no longer living up to her name).  The "Sheep and Goat Medicine Book" mentions supplementing geriatric sheep with a high fat feed such as cottonseed which is readily available in southern states (not likely readily available here), but no other high fat content supplement is mentioned.  I'm wondering if sunflower seeds would be a good supplement or if anyone has any other ideas?

I hadn't thought much about aging animals until recently. We have a llama who has a bum knee and has lost social status who has lost condition and this winter has had more problems putting weight on her leg (surgery for this type of condition is in the few thousand dollar range).  We have two sheep that are just turning 10 (Chunk and Fallon) who are losing condition (Fallon isn't bad- she still has most of her teeth), and Amey who is only 4 but has never thrived since a wee lamb and is painfully thin.  Waters, the lab cross, is 12 and CeCe the Newf will be 10 this year.  We have many more younger animals of course, but we apparently are going to need to plan ahead and figure out to what degree we are able to care for our animals so that they are leading  (relatively) pain free and happy lives.  Everyone still seems happy if not completely fit.  Will and I did agree that perhaps the most humane course of action for Pikachu the llama would be to not have her endure another winter.  We shall see when the time comes...perhaps she will rally this summer and we will find Chunk and Amey a yummy supplement that will "chunk" them up.

We WILL be sure to dig a big hole on the property when the ground thaws....just in case.  A grim and perhaps impossible task to do in the grips of a frozen winter.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Something I Neglected To Tell You

Holy Smokes it is COLD!  Doing chores actually feels more like a chore in sub zero temps.  A few of the bunny crocks have broken from the cold so I'll replace those with metal bowls.  I've never loved metal bowls, but the ice slips right out of them and they don't break.  The buns, however, like tossing them around their cages because they are so light, and perhaps because they are shiny.  It's okay when the water is frozen, but they make a mess otherwise!

Anywho- here is a story for you.  Last November, before deer season struck and work became, well, more work; I received a phone call from Sam and Duncan's chum Andrew's Mother Lisa.  (Got that?)
Hold on- need to back up a bit.  When Andrews family moved to da UP, they bought a resort on the Big Manistique Lake that came with a small petting zoo that included three goats and two sheep (you can see where this is going already can't you?).  I met Lisa at a school function and was going on about how cute these Dahl sheep were.  I'm spelling it like I heard it.  I was thinking, how interesting...Dahl sheep?  Really?  I didn't know you could keep those!  So imagine my surprise when I went to pick up my kids at Lisa's house and these two Wee Tiny Fuzzballs came running out to greet me!
The lightbulb went off- "Doll" sheep as in Olde English Southdown Babydoll sheep!

So, of course, I blathered on about how cute they were (because they are- I mean COME on!) and how friendly yadda yadda yadda.  Two months later (we are back to November now) Lisa is telling me how their behavior has changed and they are getting agressive towards their neutered buck (I'm switching to goats here) and being amorous towards the doelings (presumably in heat).  Then "Snowball" (that's the white one in case you were left wondering) starting ramming her in the leg.  She wasn't too worried about her leg (he stands about 24 inches tall at the shoulder) but was worried about her three year old.  So, two days later Lisa's father in law shows up at my office and says
"You want those sheep?  Otherwise their going to the auction barn".


Um, Will...and guess what he said?!?

We went to go get the fellas so I was finally able to get my hands on them and did a bit of "professional groping" around their nether regions and guess what I found?  You betcha- three out of four testicles still intact.  These guys had been banded before they left their farm and went to live at the resort but were still armed and dangerous.  And (close your eyes fellas) without Scrotums.  One trip to the vets later (which was a funny story in and of itself- imagine doped up sheep) they are now testosterone free.  But, definitely not FREE sheep after the surgery.
Aren't they cute though?  They always look like they are smiling.
Snowball is rather outgoingly friendly, and the bigger of the two.
Cocoa (remember that we did not name these guys) is the shy one, but he does love snooping in my pockets for graham crackers and firmly believes that humans should always have them on their person.  The wooly faces are hard to get used to and in November I had to cut a lot of hair away from their eyes so they could I understand what "Wool blind" means.  Almost time for another trim and you can see that Cocoa has some grass awns stuck in his face. They wear what they eat on their faces...hmm.  sort of beard like!
I don't know what their fleeces will be like.  Cocoa's is soft and crimpy right now and about two inches long. Snowball feels more springy and is super crimped and slightly shorter than Cocoa's.  It will be fun to spin I think, but they are so bloody small they won't have much on them!  I'm sticking with Shetland's honestly.

In other news....
The introduction to the fiber arts class is going well.  This is a class that is funded by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) grant that my friend Susan and I applied for the shcool.  Last week we hand painted (dyed) wool yarn.  The yarn was peruvian wool (I have NO idea what breed of sheep) from Knitpicks- yarn blanks.  We used Country Classics dye on most of them, though the bright gold skein to the right was dyed using onion skins with alum and cream of tartar as a mordant.  The rose colored skein to the left of the picture was cochineal beetles using alum as a mordant and was diluted quite a bit.  We had a lot of fun, but it was really labor intensive for me with all the prep work, helping everyone dye (I never heard the phrase Mrs. MacKinnon uttered so many times in my life!) and then I had to bring it all home to heat set it, rinse it, and dry it (in the basement in front of the wood furnace).  Phew.  Glad that class is done and now I know why the professionals charge so much for dye classes.

Lila was selected to go on a ski-snowboarding trip with her school this past Tuesday.  She was able to take a snowboarding and skiing lesson for next to nothing.  Will went along as a chaperone (and he went snowboarding too).  Evidently the kids had a good time watching him fall over a bunch.  He said it was really hard to control!  Lila thought so too and would have preferred spending more time skiing.

Last weekend I made donut drops and we ate them with strawberries.  They were oh so very very good and the recipe is here.  My kids will be forever in gratitude to the shepherdess for that post!  We will have more again this weekend.

Mmm!  Chunk says we could bring HER some of those!
She is getting old (10), and has few teeth, so comes into the people part of the barn for some sheep pellets.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How did it get to be January?

It seems like the passage of time speeds up those last two weeks of December.  I suspect there is some time-space continuum that goes out of whack brought about by the shortening of daylight hours, the expectations of the wee human folk, and rampant consumerism.  I expect that our Sam might work to prove this theory as he grows up.

Speaking of consumerism....we had a rather lavish holiday this year.  I'm not going to list everyone's gifts but we all have reading material to last through the middle part of the year!  Lila had 18 books in her stash- I think she has tucked three of them under her belt would have been more but she was already embroiled in the Chronicles of Prydain series written by Lloyd Alexander.  Her Welsh ancenstry calling her.

I received FOUR Terry Pratchett books from the Discworld series.  This man is a witty genius and I love him.  I'm on "Jingo" right now.  Hmm.  Also four books in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series by George R.R. Martin.  The first book was great so I'm looking forward to reading those also.  Big thick books with teeny tiny print.  This phenomenon never used to bother me, but I swear that print is getting smaller.  I also used to be albe to read in bed for a long period of time, but reading seems to have more of a soporific effect on me than anything anymore....

Okay- so here is the ultimately over the top gift:  TWO pounds of Yak down.  No, I'm not kidding.  Not ONE pound, which in and of itself is ridiculously a lot of yak, but TWO.  TWO!  AND a pound of sari silk.  AND a half pound of black alpaca blended with Mulberry silk.  I don't know where to begin.  Well, I do of course.  I'm going to spin a single of the black alpaca and silk and ply it with a single of black Shetland from our girls and finally knit myself a hat.  I might save a pound of that Yak and blend it with our moorit Shetland this spring that would be some soft yarn.

My friend Susan (the basket weaver) and I are teaching an after school arts class at the Three Lakes Academy called "Introduction to the fiber arts".  We received a grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), the Erickson Center for the Arts, and the Manistique Lakes Lion's Club to purchase lap looms, a 48 inch tapestry loom, potholder looms, two rigid heddle looms (all made in the USA in New Hampshire by Harrisville Designs), student drop spindles, fiber, fiber dye, yarn blanks, and knitting needles.  We are using the Harrisville Designs WoolWorks Curriculum which was written by Lorna McMaster.  We had our first class last wednesday and we talked about the science of wool, the cultural importance of fiber animals, and how humans discovered textiles through felting.  We had a hands on felting activity- making beads and wee pouches wet felted around plastic easter eggs.  It was pretty fun!  This week I will be teaching the kids (ten of them) how to use a drop spindle, giving a spinning demonstration on my wheel, and talking more about the cultural importance of spinning, textiles, the physics of spinning etc...  I'll take pictures this time...  It is a nine week course and I'll keep folks updated as we go along.  So now you know where I am on Wednesdays.