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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Goings On

It has been a rather cool and north-windy type of weekend so far...scattered rainshowers too. This is not condusive to either shearing sheep or washing wool, but I managed to sneak in washing half of Nala's fleece today. She has a bit of an odd fleece- quite dense and curly in some spots which makes her a bit of a pain to shear (by hand anyway). She is the biggest sweetheart though so she is definately worth the trouble! I was quite happy with the way her fleece washed up- so white and bright and very soft. I will put some of it through the drum carder soon and get some up on the Etsy site- it is a pretty soft white and would take dye very nicely.
Nala's fleece- before washing
Nala's fleece- post washing
Mocha's English Angora kits are causing her all sorts of grief...they aren't much for staying in the nest box anymore! They are eating small amounts of hay and rolled oats, and Lila told me "Taffy" (the brown kit) was sitting in the food dish eating pellets. I witnessed Jellybean (the black kit) taking a drink out of the water bottle!

They will be three weeks old on Monday. Here is Taffy sleeping with reckless abandon...

Yup, three buns here. Two faces and a bum!

Buffy has been mated to Wensledale and we are expecting another nestbox of kits around June 23. Buffy has also had small litters in the past. She is a lovely fawn tort and is vienna marked. Wensleydale is a BEW (Blue Eyed White) so the mating should produce a 50-50 chance at BEW's and vienna marked kits. Vienna marks are basically a white patch on the nose that signifies that the rabbit carries the BEW gene and has the ability to have BEW kits. Most white rabbits have red eyes, so the BEW gene is "special".

Will spent several hours in Manistique at "Rainbow Ronnie's"- a rather bizarre homebuilders salvage store searching for chicken coop construction materials. My brother donated three windows and an exterior door to the project which saved us a bundle...the cost of the coop materials was rather ridiculous...though it wil be a spacious10 x 12 feet.
See how big they are getting? They are still in that awkward "tweener" stage...still naked in spots and fully feathered in others. This Barred rock is one of my favorites- she follows me around and jumps up on my shoulder when she can.

The polish chicks are getting big too! I love their coloration.

The sheep don't want me to forget about them. Here is little Beltane- his horns are growing nicely and he is such a sweet boy.... Soon to be banded and wethered!
Gaia doesn't want to be left out of the post either and says "come on, lets play!" She always looks like she is smiling.

Lastly, the kids constructed "Cherry Blossom Castle" using some Cherry brush that Will cleared (at the site of our new compost pile) and their wooden swing set. It is pretty neat- only wish the greenery and flowers would last longer!

While Will was off doing good deeds in Manistique, the kids and I made butter. I bought a quart of heavy cream for $4.47. We put it in a big jar and took turns shaking it and within 8 minutes the butter was floating in the buttermilk! Duncan and I drained off the buttermilk and he has a small glass which he said was good. So, we ended up with about a pound of butter (which is AWESOME!) and perhaps a pint of buttermilk. Probably not very economical, but it was fun. I have a friend in spinning group that has dairy cows so I will be getting a few gallons of milk from her to try some hard cheese making and will likely make more butter. Tomorrows pancake and waffle breakfast will use the buttermilk in the batter. Good chance at a frost tonight- Will is out covering up the tomato plants and the hanging baskets have been brought in.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The end of another school year...

Monday was the art show at Emerald Elementary...we could finally see what Lila and Sam have been doing in Art class all year. The teacher had been hoarding the work for the final week.

Lila did a really cool self portrait (though she didn't really like it herself), and a beautiful rendition of Monet's water lilies.

Sam also did a self portrait and this really cool collage of "the Grouchy Ladybug" after the book of the same name by Eric Carle.

Not to be outdone, Duncan graduated from preschool on Tuesday evening with all the pomp and circumstance accorded to such occasions. We found out that his favorite food is chives and that he also wants to be a scientist when he grows up- just like his brother Sam who wants to mix things together and make them explode...

Will also helped out in Lila's class and the rest of the second grade classes doing a sheeps eye dissection- in second grade for heaven's sake! I'm pretty sure I was in eigth grade before we did a sheeps eye... Lila was not impressed and said it was quite disgusting. I have to agree that the smell of formaldehyde is not my favorite scent...but sheeps eyes are so cool...

School is officially done on May 22! Next year will see all the kids back in Curtis at the new Charter School- Hurray!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Six Years Old!

This post is to celebrate a milestone for one of the humans in our household...thats right- Sam Fin turned six years old on Saturday! Most unfortunately he spent all of the weekend throwing up (again), so we had to postpone having friends over until next weekend. Grandma Marilyn was not spared however.

Even if you aren't feeling well, it is good to open birthday presents. Sam was much taken with many of his presents and received a bunch of Michigan Chillers books, some v-smile game cartridges, a couple of transformers, two tee shirts and overalls (his were most definately too small for him), a couple of books about space and dinosaurs, some cards, balls and other things I can't remember off hand. He did get ten bucks in a card that he was terribly excited about and carried that around for quite some time before he put it into his bank (only after taking everything out and counting it before putting it back in).

Oh yes, a new marble run that Duncan was also very excited about!

Now, the cake. Sam asked for a snake on his cake- Green he said. Then he decided it should have some red stripes and "could he put them on please?" So, on went red stripes. Then a yellow sun and some blue lines. Pretty cool that I got out of most of the decorating this year!!!

He did blow out the candles, but didn't feel up to eating a piece even by Sunday.

Six Days Old

Here are Mocha Delight's two kits- they are now six days old and beginning to get hair. It was time to change the nest box bedding, so out they came into a warm patch of sunshine.

They both looked black for a few days after they were born, but this one looks to be an agouti of some shade of brown. He/she has a white belly and white in his/her ears. They are both oh so soft.....

This little one does appear to be staying black! Their eyes should open at ten days old, so by thursday or friday. They are very chubby- Mocha is evidently feeding them well! From what I've been able to ascertain online and from a few breeders that I know, most people take the nest box out of the mothers hutch and keep them elsewhere during the day, only returning the nest box and babies to the mother once or twice a day to feed them- primarily to avoid having them accidentally drug out of the box to die of exposure on the wire, or to avoid the mother stomping them to death. Mocha looked so dejected for hours after I first took them out of the box, that I felt bad and returned them and took a wait and see attitude...all appears to be well so I'm glad they went back in with her. Mother and babies are inside to temperature isn't an issue and she doesn't go into the nest box unless she is feeding them. Everyone seems pretty happy with the situation!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2009 Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) Shares

What is a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food (or Fiber) production. Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to help with the anticipated costs of the farm operation. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food or fiber production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

Spinners End Farm is a small family farm in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Spinners End was started with the gift of a spinning wheel and three rescue llamas. We soon added a small flock of registered purebred Shetland sheep and a few English angora rabbits. Our children (ages 8, 6 and 4) assist us with some small, but significant tasks to help them learn about the responsibility, care and joy that comes from animal stewardship; the biology of the animal and the ecology of a farm.
Spinners End is a modest farm where the welfare of our animals is of the utmost concern. Our fiber animals are a part of our family- everyone has a name and receives daily individual attention and affection. It is our intention that they will live their lives out at our farm if at all possible. Our sheep are guarded by their companion llamas and we are a “predator friendly” farm. Our sheep and llamas graze in a small pasture during the summer months and are supplemented with quality locally grown grass hay. In our area, grass hay is generally harvested only once a season, allowing nesting grassland birds the opportunity to raise and fledge a full brood of young. During the winter months, grass hay is supplemented with treats of whole oats and roasted soybeans. Fresh water, mineral and kelp supplements are available at all times. Animals are vaccinated and examined for internal parasites and wormed if necessary. Part of our philosophy is we don’t believe in the routine application of chemicals or pesticides where it isn’t warranted. Shearing and processing wool is done here at the farm by hand! Sheep and llamas are gently shorn with hand shears and the wool is skirted, soaked, washed and dried on our back deck in the sun. English angora wool is harvested by gently plucking the loose fiber- ensuring a long staple wonderful for spinning. Wool is then processed and blended by drum carder into thick, soft, lofty batts that are wonderful to spin. If you choose the yarn CSA, all yarn is handspun and is double ply. By purchasing a CSA share, you become part of our extended farm family. The dollars you invest in our farm will help us provide the best possible care we can give to our animals in the form of high quality grass hay, mineral & kelp supplement, vaccinations and medications (when necessary), hoof trimming and shelter. This year, we hope to begin construction on a small New England styled barn to increase the comfort and security of the flock.

In return for your investment as a CSA shareholder, you will receive two pounds of spinning batts, or one pound of handspun yarn made from the animals on our farm. You can choose the colors and blends of fiber- Shetland wool is soft and luxurious and blends very nicely with small quantities of llama and angora fiber, or you may choose 100 % Shetland wool which “spins itself” and also makes a wonderful felt. Please contact us for the many choices available to you- there is a wide variety of natural colors to choose from! Based on your selection of fibers, you will receive information and photos of the animals that grew the fiber, and your name will be listed as a CSA shareholder on our farm blog where updates on the farm are regularly posted.
Shareholders will receive their spinning batts or yarn by the beginning of October (or sooner if it can be arranged) to ensure us the time to carefully prepare the fiber and hand spin the yarn. You will be contacted for the details of your fiber blends and colors or yarn preferences. If you wish to purchase a CSA share to sponsor our farm, and you aren’t a spinner, knitter, felt artist or fiber enthusiast you may donate the fiber back to Spinners End Farm and we could gratefully offer another CSA share. Shares will be limited to ten for the 2009 season and are $100.00 each. They are available to purchase through our Etsy store site, posted on the right side of this page.

Continue to visit our blog to learn more about the farm and feel free to contact us with any questions you might have and fiber options available- we look forward to chatting with you! Personal visits to our farm to meet the animals are also welcome.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mocha's Babies

Just a quicky to let you know that Mocha's babies have arrived....
There were only two, born sometime early this morning. They have fat plump tummies so they are already being fed well by mama. Evidently they are going to be dark! They look a little bit like little bats with that black shiny skin! It won't be long and they will start getting thier fur...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

After the Rain

Two Fringe Benefits of rain are....

Puddles...though they don't last long in our sandy soil,

and Rainbows- this one was a double!

Golden Laced Crested Polish Chicks and Cheese

Our friends, the Olsons, have a few of these chickens...they are extremely friendly and very goofy looking! We tried to order a couple when we recieved the other chicks, but alas, they did not hatch on the same date. However, the Olsons were ordering some chicks of their own, and they very kindly ordered three of these darling things for us!

See their puffy topped head? It gets quite crazy looking when they get their adult feathers.
They are quite tiny and the most beautiful color...they currently reside in a cardboard box in our bedroom because they are too small to go in with the other chicks, who at less than two weeks old, have lost their cute little peep fluffiness and at a rather alarming rate are turning into bona fide chickens!
Will gave me a nudge in bed this morning to point out the patch of light on the ceiling made by the warming light in the chicken could see the silhouttes of three tiny chickens dancing to who knows what tune. I know for a fact that we are not the only people who have ever had livestock in their house so my initial thoughts of "maybe this is just a bit over the top" have been laid to rest. At my spinning group this morning the ladies were telling tales of assorted animals they have known so I now know that this is not too unusual, or that at least I have found the right group of people to hang out with!

Miss Mocha, the english angora rabbit that is due to kindle (have babies) this weekend, has started building a nest. I have had my doubts that she was actually pregnant, but I caught her yesterday carrying mouthfuls of hay around her cage looking for a place to put it. I slipped the nest box in her cage today and she built a rather half hearted looking nest. She was ripping wool out of her tummy to beat the band though, so we shall see. I'm glad she is inside (yes, more animals in the house) because it is cold and windy this weekend.

The weather has not inspired me to do any sheep shearing (they would get cold right?), but today after spinning I got out the cheesemaking kit I ordered from the New England Cheesemaking Company and made some Whole Milk Ricotta cheese and Fresh Mozzarella. We will put together a lasagna for Mother's Day dinner using the homemade cheese. It was pretty easy to do and it tastes great! The kit was $24.95 and it makes 30 batches (or as Duncan likes to say "patches") of Ricotta and/or Mozzarella. You just have to buy the milk, the rest is in the kit!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cheerful photos on a rainy Thursday

Best Buddies

"She Likes me Mom!"

Lamb in Motion

"Caught one!"

Sam, my barnyard friend.

I hope this rain really stops by the weekend....I need to shear some sheep!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Chicks have arrived!

The chicks arrived in Thursday mornings post, so Will, Duncan and I drove to the burg of Germfask to pick them up... Curtis only has a post office for those who choose to have a post office box. So, even though we live two miles out of the "town" of Curtis we have a Germfask mailing address. To complicate matters further, Curtis (and our house) is in Mackinac County; Germfask is in Schoolcraft County. Changing out drivers license's at the Secretary of State was a bit of a hassle, because in Michigan you register to vote at the same our driver's licenses say Curtis (with a different zip code than Germfask) to reflect more accurately that we live in Mackinac County and Portage Township so we can vote. This is different than what our checks say, but I haven't yet in the four years we have lived here have anyone notice, or anyone really care about it anyway. I'm not sure wether or not that should make me feel good! But I digress.

The brooder was put together over the weekend using some big cardboard boxes that I got at the appliance store in Newberry. They are duct taped together (I found out that duct tape doesn't work all that great in 30-40 degree temps), and placed on top of a layer of thick foamy foam. There are a few inches of pine shavings inside, and the box is divided in half by a bale of straw to conserve heat for the first couple of weeks. As the chicks get older, the bale will be removed and they can use the rest of the box without being so crowded. Will put some more strips of foamy foam over the top to conserve heat. Add heating lamp with red bulb and voila! A rather ugly, but cheap and functional brooder. It is in the garage, of course. I was contemplating what would happen in a power outage this morning...I guess we'd bring them all inside to cozy up with us.

This is the tiny box all 28 (three extra) arrived in...

They weren't too crowded, and they need each others body heat to keep warm enough for the travel from Iowa to Michigan. The bottom had a nice piece of honeycombed cardboard so they weren't sitting in their poop all the way here.

Lila decided she wants to make one of the buff orpingtons a pet. Sam wants a barred rock, and Duncan wants "one of the all black ones" (Black australorp). His chick is black all over the back and yellow on the tummy and face.

So, for the record, the chicken collective includes: 3 Buff Orpingtons, 6 Rhode Island Reds, 5 Barred Rocks, 4 Black Australorps and 3 Silver Laced Wyandottes. Nope, that doesn't equal 28 or even 25...Four have been promised to a friend and sadly three of the smallest ones didn't make it past the first couple of days.

Here is their cozy brooder. Five days later and they are starting to look more sharply like chickens and not peeps!