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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fragrant View

This is the view from the end of our driveway facing northwest.  When we bought the house five years ago this mass of lilacs was one of the main selling points.  Below the window dormer to the right is a double set of windows that opens over a lovely enclosed porch.  Most of the bunnies currently reside on the porch and our computer and desk are in front of the windows.  There is a similar view that we see and smell while sitting in front of the computer monitor.
The unfortunate thing about such a lovely view is that it is so fleeting. The lilac blossoms on started to open mid-week last week and they are starting to go by already.  On the north side of the garage is another large mass of lilacs...they are in where the chickens have been fenced.  The chickens roost beneath them during the hot part of the day and we have seen them jumping to snatch low hanging blossoms to gobble down.  The sheep appreciate them as well we found out...especially the leaves.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy, Cool, coated Sheep!

This year we choose to hire a shearer to come to our place instead of doing the sheep ourselves.  Why?  Because it took us about an hour to do EACH sheep!  It is hot, buggy, sweaty, hard work and this year we had TWELVE of them to do. My shepherd mentor Karen highly recommended the shearer she uses from Wisconsin.  We weren't sure what to expect.
I didn't get too many photos because we were BUSY the entire time.  While David was shearing, Will was wrangling the next sheep in line and making sure no one escaped.  Meanwhile, I was prepping sheep coats, readying the dewormer, getting bags ready for fleece and labels for the bags.  After the shearing (which goes amazingly fast when you know what you are doing and have loads of experience), David rolled up the fleece and Will bagged it before grabbing the next sheep.  David also helped me with the coats and gave me a couple of good sheep handling tips (he is also a shepherd as well as shearer extraordinaire).  The sheep above is Chunk- she was the first sheep to be grabbed much to her dismay.
Doesn't she look excited?
I also had ready a handy can of antibiotic spray  for any cuts or nasty scrapes the sheep may have got.  I didn't need it. This guy is GOOD.  We were very lucky to be able to get him to come this far east.  After he tore down he hung out with us for awhile having a beer and telling us stories of shearing in Scotland and New Zealand.  We sent him away with some of our maple syrup and a dozen boiled eggs and felt enriched by the whole experience.  This is a Link to read about him in Grit magazine.
...and this is his handiwork.  Miss Fancy looks AWESOME!
This year we decided to try coating some of the sheep.  The suits are from  the Rocky Sheep Suit Company and are made of a lightweight durable lightweight nylon that won't crush or felt fine fleeced animals. As a bonus, Rocky is also a very nice fella to do business with!
I decided to coat nine of the twelve sheep.  The three that were not coated are Fancy, Cameo and Fallon.  They all have extremely dense coats and get very little VM in them.  Fallon is also cantankerous and I wasn't sure she endure it well!  Someone also told me that sheep that have never been coated don't deal with the coats well but everyone seems fine with them which thrills me to no end...
Gaia and the other yearlings are modeling a size C, while her mother and the rest of the "mature" ewes are wearing a size D.
Finally, here is Chunk sporting her new "do" and her sheep suit.  Some of them are a wee bit baggy so have been taken in with the ever so handy zip tie until their fleeces help fill them out.  

Field Day 2010 and Duncan's big Day

The Three Lakes Academy had their first field day on May 26- the day before the last day of school.  It was themed "wilderness survival" and all of the events were oriented towards the outdoors.  The kids learned how to make a fire using flint and steel and using friction using a bow, a stick and a board. 

After the stick started smoking the instructor put a few bits of birch bark in the hole in the board and blew the ember into some small flames!  The kids were amazed that friction could start a fire. Jon (the instructor) asked Sam's group if they knew what friction was.  Sam said "it is part of something".  Jon said "huh?" and Sam said "oh no, I guess that is a fraction".

Shooting a bow was another event.  They actually used real target arrows but everyone behaved pretty well and observed all the safety rules.  Jodi tried to help Sam.
But Sam really wanted to do it himself.  After a few botched attempts he asked for help.
Duncan had fun too and was more willing to accept instruction.
Other events included: making rope, a scavenger hunt to find things that did not belong in the woods (run by Will), and dry land fishing.  To celebrate the last day of school and the first full year of the Charter, we had a community barbeque and pot-luck.  The food was great and so was the company.  Duncan won a good citizen award, Lila was awarded "best reader in third grade" and made honor roll. I don't remember having an honor roll in elementary school!
There also was a bit of a celebration for those who were moving from Kindergarten into first grade!  The caps and gowns were so cute and everyone cooed at the wee ones in their green gowns.
It was actually a class of Seven, but one was missing as usual!
Duncan was a bit shy and wasn't sure what all the fuss was about but was very pleased about his Good Citizenship award.  Oh, and the "I'm a First Grader" pencil.  Hard to believe the school year is over!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sam's Fresh Eggs

Twenty one eggs today!  The sweet wire basket was given to me by my dear friend Kristie and I cherish it.
One hen lays an egg that has folds of wrinkles on it.  The shell is quite thick.  It is the kids favorite egg and Duncan insisted that I take a photo of it to share.  I love all the different colors!

(Yet Another) Barn Update

Outside view of enclosed lean-to. The batten part of board and batten will be done at a later date.

Inside view of lean-to/hay storage area.

Enclosing the hay loft.
One side of the loft done !  Much more framing of windows and doors to be done, but we can put the sheep in the lean-to in prep for the shearer and he can shear under the roof if he so chooses.
Gratuitous child with chick shot.

The Story of the Little White Hen

Miss Frizz is a frizzled white bantam cochin hen.  She ordinarily is very cute and fluffy. Miss Frizz decided that she wanted, no NEEDED to be a mother and got all broody.  Problem is, Miss Frizz lays tiny white eggs and our rooster Goldy is a full size Buff orpington.  I didn't think that a bigger chick could hatch out of one of those tiny eggs.  Goldy is rather partial to blondes and pays particular attention to those of his own breed.  So as they were laying eggs I would grab them, mark them with the date and slip them under Miss Frizz's warm chest.  I put four eggs in her nest- 3 laid by Buff orpington hens and one by a silver laced wyandotte.  What were the chances they were all fertile?
One day, two weeks ago, we came home and I could see from the driveway that there was an egg laying in the middle of the coop.  I went in and picked it up and was glad I looked closely because it was one of the marked eggs that were being incubated.  The egg was cold so I didn't have much hope it would hatch but I stuck it back under her anyway.  Interestingly enough, there were five eggs under Miss Frizz.  Hmm.  Okay, five plus one in my hand equals six.  I did the math a few more times to convince myself there were more than four.  Two of the eggs were not marked so I imagine Miss Frizz got up to get a bite to eat and a couple of interlopers laid their eggs and evidently booted one out.  I have no idea who laid those eggs!  And they were laid a week after the first four.  I just left them there.
I left Miss Frizz in her nest box in the hen house fully intending to move her the day before the eggs were to begin hatching.  Unfortunately when I got home from work on friday I could hear peeping...I was very excited and found a wee little wet yellow chick under Miss Frizz!  But there were two eggshells and I searched in vain underneath her for another chick.  Sadly, I found it not far from the nest boxes and it had been pecked to death.  Then I noticed poor Miss Frizz's head...all those black marks are peck marks.  She must have been defending her first born and got rather beat up for her efforts.  Fortunately, she went back to her nest and hatched the little one above.  Those two chicks hatched on day 20- not day 21!
Having sadly learned my lesson I scooted those eggs and Miss Frizz into a nice big dog kennel with lots of hay.  I'm proud to say that all of the original four eggs  hatched.  But for the tradgedy we would have four chicks peeping instead of the three lovelies harassing their mother currently.
This is the first time we have had chicks hatched under the hen.  The kids were able to hold those eggs up to their ears to hear the chicks peeping inside...truely magical.  The chicks behavior is incredibly different than our experience last year with those that came from the hatchery.  Miss Frizz has all sorts of noises coded in chicken that she uses to try to tame and teach them.  The poor thing  can't get a bite to eat without being harrassed by her babies.  Oh, and she is still sitting on the other two eggs...we'll leave them there another week to see if they are fertile.
On another note...Buffy the english angora was due to kindle on May 19.  No bunnies.  Today=May 23...still no bunnies.  I can only conclude that she was able to evade her young suitors amorous intentions or that he is shooting blanks.  I normally stay to, ahem, observe but this time I did not...I watched them from the living room window and everyone looked like they were getting along fine and I did observe "the deed" once (or what I thought was the deed once) but alas... We'll make due with chicks and expect baby bunnies on Memorial Day!

The Shearer Cometh!

Thank goodness!  We heard from the Shearer last evening that he will be winging our way late Wednesday or early Thursday.  The girls are looking so huge and too warm...temps today in the high 80's.  The barn is not complete, but we have a way to contain them and set up a holding pen.  I think I may be building a gate tomorrow...  Then the fun with fleece begins!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MORE barn updates!

Putting on the ridge cap

The roof is done!  (except for edge pieces)

The first board goes on the barn!  It will have board and batten siding.  We bought rough sawn pine from a local mill in Seney.  It was worth it to meet the cranky sawyer (who as you might expect was missing a digit).  The boards are eight, ten and twelve inches wide.

Sam gets to pound in some nails on his birthday.

There has to be at least one rope swing in a barn right?

And of course, a cat.  Ginger approves.

Sam is Seven

Our Sam turned SEVEN!  I'm not sure how that happened.  Well, Sam said it was because the sun rises and sets everyday so everyone gets one day older when that happens.

Everytime he opened something he liked, he said "wow!  I can't believe it!!"

It looks like Grandma can't believe it either!
It wasn't a kid guest kind of day...the kids invited were either sick, or had birthday parties of their own that weekend so we had grownup friends (and Guinea Pigs in the cage) that watched Sam open his gifts. We had hamburgers, brats, homemade fries, hummus, guacamole and watermelon on the back deck.
There was cake too.

It is supposed to be an electric eel shaped like a Seven.  They aren't really green- they are gray but who wants gray frosting on a cake ?(and to be official they aren't even  eels as we found out doing a first grade science report!)

It may have looked funny, but it tasted good!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

BAD Dog!

Our neighbors have a fish gut pile...evidently a perfume a dog cannot resist to clothe herself in.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Barn Progress

What barn you may be asking?  The lovely 16x24 post and beam (with a lean to) that was started when we had some "Indian summer" in December.  The weather wasn't terribly cooperative since for handling thin sheets of cold sharp metal that are easily buffeted by the wind.  Finally the weather is not wet nor too windy.

Step one:  Barn frame sheathed with plywood in preparation for the metal roof.

This is the back of the barn...the side with the lean to for the hay.  The roof isn't so steep on this side fortunately. 

 View from afar...

This is actually step two, but I skipped it for the back of the roof.  The front of the barn has a pretty steep pitch without anything to stand on hence the strips of 2x4's that are securely fastened into the purlins.  Still....everytime there is a lull in pounding I peek out the door to make sure Will hasn't slid off the roof to make me a young (okay, young-ish) widow.  If the weather holds fair tomorrow the twelve foot strips of metal will likely be fastened over the tar paper.  I guess he will remove each vertical section of footholds as he goes.