Sunday Homestead Update

We have been oh-so-sick this week.  Croup, strep, and pneumonia.  Very.  Sick.  But thankfully everyone is improving and the terrible part is over.  By next SHU we should be recovered and doing much better.

Knitting

Mr. Smiles couldn’t sleep in any position except on our chests in the recliner for 4 days, so Mtn Man and I took turns overnight and Sunshine and Young Man also pitched in a few times during the day.  But for the most part he was in my arms or asleep on my chest all day for four days.  Thankfully, I was able to do some knitting when he was asleep, because I was getting very antsy and bored.

Dog Yarn?

We had an interesting “first” in the mill this week.  We made our first dog hair yarn.  The hair came from a standard poodle, and was mixed 50% with wool from a Lincoln Longwool sheep.  It turned out really cool.

The dog hair definitely needed plenty of support from the Longwool, but it is indeed possible to make dog hair into yarn.  It turned out pretty and is quite soft – softer than I expected.

Snow

We got a good 15-inch dump of snow this week.  It is safe to say fall weather is gone and winter weather has arrived here in the Rockies.  Last year was a very long, mild fall, this year it was short and colder.

We still really need to get the firewood chopped and stacked for the winter, but illness put that off for now.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel successfully hatched out 4 chicks.  That is a pretty low percentage, considering she started with 10, but that sometimes happens with hatching, especially at high altitude.  And the cold weather could have something to do with it as well.

But I am happy about the four.  We don’t usually hatch in the fall, and with winter cold arriving early I think it will be good for her to only have four because it will be easier for her to successfully keep them all warm even as they grow.

Sewing

I have started working on the Winter/Christmas cloth placemat and napkin set.  Once I finish them I will have all four seasonal sets done!

While I have been working on those, Little Miss and Sunshine have taken it upon themselves to make matching trivet pads with the scraps from all the seasonal sets we have made.  When I cut the placemats’ corners off, we end up with a lot of little triangle scraps from the two different placemat fabrics for each season.

We felt like it would be wasteful to just throw those out, so the girls are piecing them together (there are a million different ways to arrange 36 triangles), adding a couple of layers of batting, using the larger scraps of fabric for the back, and making these cool trivet pads that will coordinate with each of my placemat/napkin sets.

Here is a peek at the Autumn/Thanksgiving set, which we are currently using.  These are the pads they made:

Which go with these placemats and napkins.  Left is Autumn, and right is Thanksgiving:

Once I finish the Winter/Christmas set, I will do a post that shows all four different sets, and the trivet pads that go with them.  If you are interested in finding out how we make these, you can click here for the post that shows how.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have begun having a lot of cold weather, as well as a lot of harsh wind.  We are coming to the end of our season of getting things done outdoors and scrambling to get what we can done before we really can’t anymore.  Pretty much all that is left is firewood, and hopefully we will get to that next weekend.

Oliver

Sadly, our sweet English Angora bunny, Oliver, died this week.  He was a very wonderful pet and fiber producing animal that we all miss very much.

A few weeks ago he got a wool block (intestines blocked with fur) despite the fact that we were using papaya tablets regularly to help keep that from happening.  We were able to clear the block with pineapple juice and more papaya tablets.  But despite that, Oliver never fully recovered.  It was a hard loss.  He was a sweet bunny that loved being pet.  He was litterbox trained so we would let him hop around outside his cage and play.  We enjoyed watching him do his “happy hops” and kick up his heels.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel is hatching out her chicks today.  We can hear the peep-peep-peeping sound underneath her.  We are excited to see how many hatch in the next couple of days!

Sewing

We have continued with knitting, sewing and crafting projects for Christmas.  This week I worked through the mending pile as well.  Buttons sewn back on, holes in pants patched, etc.

One thing the girls love to have me do is take a pair of their favorite jeans that still fit their waist well, but have been patched and re-patched and are worn out in the legs, and I make them into a skirt.  That way they still have the comfortable pants top, and the worn out legs are removed and a skirt is added.  This week I made one for Little Miss using her favorite jeans and a dress that didn’t fit her top but had a cute bottom edge that is longer in the back and shorter in the front.

Wind Storm

We had a bad wind storm this week that busted the top off of one of our pine trees.  Thankfully it didn’t hit anything.  It was about 12 inches diameter, but it did have some rot on one side, which is probably why it broke off.

Cozy By the Fire

Despite the cold weather, our indoor kitty was careful to not let his belly get chilled.  He warmed it by the fire.

And his brother enjoyed the warmth of the fire from up on the recliner.

 

Sunday Homestead Update

Time for another update on the happenings around the homestead.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel is happily setting on her eggs.  She still has one more week until hatch day.  Of the ten eggs under her 9 were fertile, and 2 died early in the process.  So she now has 7 live eggs under her.  Alice and her 5 chicks are doing great in the lower coop.  It is pretty fun to have chicks at this odd time of year.  We have never had chicks in the fall before.

The aggressive rooster is actually doing better lately.  We are hopeful that the aggression was just an overreaction to being the new head roo and that now that he has settled into his position a bit it wont return.  We found that squaring our shoulders to him and stomping our muck boots when he started challenging us causes him to back down.  Although we still haven’t let the kids in with him yet.

More Beautiful Yarn

I just had to share with you some of the beautiful yarn coming out of the mill this last week!  I wish the computer had a feature where you could reach through a feel the squishy softness of this yarn.

The first batch is a merino wool/silk blend.  It is the softest yarn I have ever felt.  Silky smooth, soft and squishy.

The next batch is CVM wool.  Obviously not as silky and soft as the silk blend, but soft in its own way and also squishy.  Plus, I absolutely love the color and luster, though the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Knitting

I am making some more Fish Lips Kiss Heel socks using the cardboard foot cut-outs.  I am experimenting with different toe increases and overall enjoying the method.

I have also made a lot of progress on my Let Go cardigan with my Sandstorm yarn that Mtn Man made me for our anniversary.  I am really excited about this cardigan – I love the cables.

I really need to get sewing on the Christmas/Winter placemat and napkin sets I am making, but it seems lately all I want to do is knit.  🙂

Sheep

Sheep breeding season has officially begun at Willow Creek Farm.  We had said November 1st, but decided to just do the moving around of pens this weekend.  So Fergus is in with the ewes and we are hopeful that we will have a successful breeding season despite his young age.

Fall Projects

We are continuing to try to get all our fall projects done before winter hits.  We had more snow this week already, and cold temps, but we have been able to continue to get stuff done.

The chicken coop got a good cleaning and re-bedding.  It is always nice to have a freshly cleaned coop.  We also did some stall cleaning along with the shuffling of the sheep into different pens for breeding.

Wildlife

The wildlife are very actively through our property each day this time of year.  We are regularly seeing deer, elk, and the flock of turkeys.  We also see coyotes and bears occasionally.  And rarely, a bobcat.  It is such a blessing to be able to live in these beautiful mountains surrounded by all this wildlife.

Have a great week!

Escape!

With a family of 7, juggling two businesses, a homestead, homeschooling, 4H, and many other outside activities, things can sometimes get overlooked, and accidents happen.

This week the barnyard gate was accidentally left unlatched.  Closed, but not latched.  At some point the wind blew it open enough that the sheep saw their opportunity for a little get-away.  They headed out into the world, which around here means forest and mountains, as well as roads and neighbors.  Somehow the gate closed before little Daffodil could follow the flock, and Fergus was in his own pen so he couldn’t follow either.  Both of them started bleating desperately for the rest of the flock.  Anya was also closed in her own pen, so she couldn’t do anything but bark like crazy.

Meanwhile, I was busy juggling life in the house, kids, school, etc.  I heard the barking but couldn’t stop right away to go see what was up.  Sunshine loaded up Mr. Smiles into his stroller to go for a walk and as she headed out the door she saw the flock on the opposite side of our property.  When they saw her they ran back towards the barn (thank goodness!).  She ran inside, yelling for help, and the older kids and I headed out.

Lately we have seen both bears and coyotes on our property during daylight hours, so the first thing I was worried about was predators.  They were headed up the mountain behind the property, so there wasn’t currently risk of the road.  I ran straight to the barn and got a bucket of grain.  The sheep haven’t had grain since spring – we only feed it during pregnancy and lactation.  So when I headed up the hill behind the barn toward the flock, shaking the bucket, at first they were not at all interested.  They were clearly riled up, and they were all just following Fiona, the head ewe, wherever she went.

Fiona looked at me as I was shaking the bucket, with no interest at all and went back to nibbling on a currant bush.  Then, like in a cartoon, a lightbulb went on above her head as she remembered what grain is, and she suddenly turned and ran full speed straight for me.  The rest of the flock followed, and, with a few sheep heads jammed into the bucket of grain, I lured them back into the barn and then into the barnyard.

Whew, situation handled, crisis averted.

Always an adventure!

 

Sheep Breeding Season

It is almost breeding season for the sheep!  Traditional breeding season for sheep starts in August/September and can go through December, however, because of our high-altitude, cold climate we generally try to breed November and December.  This gives the ewes two heat cycles with the ram, and it gives us lambing in April and May, which is much better weather for the lambs to be born (and for us too!).

This year is a new experience for us as far as breeding the sheep goes.  For the past few years we have not owned our own ram.  We have limited space, and keeping male animals can be tricky with kids running around the farm.  So we would take our ewes down and leave them at the farm we originally bought them from to be bred by the ram.  November and December meant empty quiet-ness on the farm because most of the livestock was gone for those two months.

But our breeder moved out of state this year, so that option was not available.  We discussed our options and decided to keep our own ram.  Last December, we bought two pregnant ewes that were unrelated to all of our ewes, with the hopes that one of them would give birth to a ram that could be our future breeding ram.  They were both due to lamb earlier in the year than we normally lamb, but the benefit of that was that the ram would be mature enough to hopefully breed for us this fall.  They had both given birth several times in the past, always to twins, so we assumed that the odds were we would have 4 lambs and at least ONE of them would be a ram.  Chuckle.  Sigh.  Ah, the best laid plans…. 🙂

Twin ewe lambs, Daisy and Black-Eyed Susan

Fast forward to spring, we got twin ewe lambs from one and a single ewe lamb from the other.  Sigh.  In fact, out of 9 babies born this spring on our farm (both sheep and goats) we got 8 girls, and just one boy!

Single ewe lambs (different mothers), Daffodil and Rose.

The ram that was born in our flock was born in late April, and he was born to our best ewe.  His mother is a CVM/Merino ewe, which are both very fine wool breeds.  She has amazing fiber that is super-fine and has tight crimp, but it grows slower than other breeds.  His father was a Blue-Faced Leicester, with a faster growing wool.  The wool is not as fine and doesn’t have as much crimp.  We find that crossing the finer wool breeds with the long wool breeds gives lambs with wool that grows faster (like the long wool) but it is still fine and has good crimp (like the fine wool).  Perfect for hand-spinners and makes a nice soft yarn in the mill too.  This little ram lamb had just that – the hybrid-vigor from the cross-breeding.  He is beautiful, with a silver body, black points, and white face markings (ironically, both parents were white).  He has great confirmation and excellent wool – a perfect breeding ram.  We named him Fergus.  But…there were two problems.  First, he was born so late in the year that it is unclear if he will be mature enough to breed this year.  And second, he is related to our best ewe, who we do not want to sell, so if we use him he will be breeding his mom.

Ram lamb, Fergus, and his mother, Fiona

So we decided to buy a breeding ram and either sell Fergus as a breeding ram, or wether him and keep him for his excellent wool.  We went through the process of searching for the right ram for us at different farms.  We found one we really liked (who, by the way, was very similar to Fergus in many ways), and paid the $150 to have him blood tested for all the contagious illnesses that we didn’t want to bring to our flock.  He, unfortunately, came up positive with one of those (glad we tested!).  But we were now out $150 plus the time we spent searching and had no new leads for a ram.   Again…the best laid plans… 🙂

Side-note: if there is one thing we have learned in our years of homesteading, it is that you have to be flexible and expect plans to fall through, because they often do, and you can’t let it ruin everything when they do.  Things rarely go as “planned” on a homestead.

Back to the story…

So we called our vet.  We discussed with him inbreeding and line-breeding in sheep and whether it would be ok to breed this ram to his mom.  Apparently, mother/son and father/daughter breeding is very common in the meat sheep industry and the lambs turn out fine.  Granted, these are wool sheep…but still.  There is, of course, a risk, but he felt it was worth a try.  If it doesn’t go well we could just not do it in the future, but he felt it most likely will work.

Ram lamb, Fergus

So we decided to go ahead and keep Fergus as our breeding ram.  We will breed him to the older three ewes this fall and see how it goes.  There is still a chance he wont be mature enough for breeding in time, but we are going to give it a try.

We moved Fergus into his own pen, just in case, back in September.  Come November 1st we will move him in with the girls and see how it goes.