October 30, 2010

New Shetlands

We were to pick up the sheep last weekend. It didn't happen. The better half didn't make it home.
The 5 new additions
However he did have a load bringing him by the house on Tuesday. Things worked out so we had just enough time to make the 4 hour round trip to pick up the sheep.

Whirlwind eating her Halloween treat.

Adrian the wether.
He is a little cuddle bug. One of my favorites. His fleece is very close to being almost white. I am so looking forward to shearing him in the spring.
Jim says we should starting calling the sheep up at night by yelling "YO Adrian" while playing the song "Gonna Fly Now" (you know the song Rocky/Sly Stallon ran the steps to).
Funny man eh?

October 22, 2010

Hug A Sheep & Photos From The Road

One of my most favorite things to do is

If you haven't already - check out Nancy's blog A Shephard's Voice to learn about, participate in or visit with her on Hug A Sheep Day. On her blog you can even vote for the sheep you would most like to hug at her open house. Me, I couldn't choose just one, I would want to hug them all.

The better half has been out, about and all over the US this week. He sent photos of Nebraska, Wyoming and North Dakota.
Complete with squashed bug on windshield - Nebraska I 80 I do believe
Welcome to North Dakota...
Lovely, scenic drive in the Black Hills he said.

Sign said World's Largest Metal Works
Looks like a hill in the background, hun? Nope it is a row of sugar beets. He was picking up sugar made from sugar beets.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

October 21, 2010

Felted Wool Blanket

The weather has been amazing! Yesterday was another great day to be working outside. Was wonderful...soaking up the warm afternoon temperatures, enjoying the sunny skies not to mention the beautiful fall foliage.

This was my office...

My desk...

My co-workers...

These three are my constant companions. The big one is Brutus my grand dog, a GP/Lab cross. His mom is one of our livestock guardians. His dad was the neighbor over the hill's dog who jumped the fence to come a courtin'. Brutus was born the weekend my son moved back home. My son just had to have his own dog, so he had pick of the litter. He does care for Brutus, buys his food, takes him to vet when needed, plays with him when he can and did have him nuetered. The thing is my son works 2 jobs and is never home.
The little silver one is Fiona, our most recent rescue. She and Buster Brown (the blonde dog in back) are both Llasa's. Fiona lost half of her ear before she came to us, as well as weighing in at 1 lb., had a skin disorder and was malnourished. Now she just looks a bit quirky with her one ear standing straight up. Buster Brown also a rescue is a whole nother story.

My project...

I am attempting to make a felted wool blanket. Why? The better half wants one. So I am trying. It will consist of 6 felted Shetland wool panels sewn together, with a backing of flannel or another warm type material. Mom says she can machine quilt the two layers together. We are going to give it a whirl.

I had been reading a few different felting tutorials when I ran across the stomp felting method. You use your feet to felt the wool = stomp. In that little bundle is a layer of plastic and layers of wool neatly wrapped around some plastic pvc pipe then tied together. You roll it back it forth with your feet. Much like log rolling just without as much water. I sit most time while rolling it. Though also will hold onto the porch railing, putting most of my weight on it while rolling to add more pressure.

In olden days it is told that Indians would felt wool by covering and dragging the bundle behind a horse on their journeys. I have read some folks will beat the wool to felt it. Most use their hands and some have a felting machine. Don't have a horse, though Jim did voluteer to drag the pipe behind the truck up the drive way. Can't justify the expense of the rolling felting machine. I also don't think I would find pleasure in beating the wool, my old hands have "arthur" creeping into them and show signs of carpel tunnel. Stomp method should and did work.

The results

I used brown and light grey Shetland wool, threw in a bit of white Mohair for texture (the curls in the photo below).

Pinch test showed it was ready for the next step. The edges were a bit rough, they didn't felt well. Will pay more attention to the outer edges next panel. 1 panel down 5 to go. I will take photos to post of the process from start to finish with the next panel, in case anyone maybe interested.

Till next time...
Thanks for stopping by and have a great rest of the day!

October 19, 2010

Lemon Vinegar & Fleeces

It was during one of my rare “ah-ha moments” that these lovely jars of lemon vinegar came to be. I was working with one of the Shetland fleeces, actually attempting to put the fiber through the drum carder. I say attempting due to the drum carder and I having a very rocky beginning. I just couldn’t seem to get the swing of things with the wonderful little machine.

My little crafting corner, fiber flows off the drum carder now. Those bags on the shelf in the background are what I am washing while it is warm for craft projects this winter.

Oh I could fill the drum perfectly; I just couldn’t get the batting off the drum. I had to literally pick it off. Time consuming to say the least, definitely not good for the teeth on the carding cloth regardless of how careful I was and it was frustrating as all get out!
After suffering with the same results 2 or 3 times made me just not want to use the darn thing at all. I read and re-read directions. I scoured the internet for information; watched how-to You Tube videos (this is an act of desperation – we have dial up and it takes an hour or more to load a 7 minute video) even talked to the wonderful makers of the drum carder about my issues.

My friend and sheep mentor Tammy mentioned possibly re-washing the fleeces, making sure to get them uber clean. There might be the possibility grease could still be on the fleece which was gumming up the works for me.
Rewashing the fleece was not a big issue, I just really didn’t want to because I knew I was washing the fleece very well and carefully rinsing completely. I had been rinsing as many times as it took to see clean, clear water. The dry fleeces felt clean, not tacky or greasy. I just knew they were clean. I gave in and decided to rewash them. At the time I was also surfing the internet for fiber washing info. Not sure where I found the info, I think it was my Colored Angora group. Someone suggested adding vinegar to the final rinse. Humm…stinky vinegar on my precious fleeces made me cringe. I hate the smell of vinegar.

Vinegar is something we keep in the pantry at all times. We use vinegar to home can, make cheeses, marinades, salad dressings and due to Jim being diabetic you wouldn’t believe the info floating around out there about using vinegar to lower blood sugar. I have a folk remedy book on the benefits of vinegar. Vinegar for bug bites, dandruff, skin rashes, as a household cleaner it makes a good bathroom cleanser, use it on the bowl, sink and mirrors. For laundry, vinegar is said to soften, you can add a ½ of cup to a cup depending on size of load. I also use vinegar to dye fleece. …you could probably find 1001 uses for vinegar.

During the summer we like fresh squeezed lemonade and I love homemade lemon curd on toast and muffins. Winter brings baked goodies like lemon pies, which for some reason I am craving at the moment. Sure I could use that store bought lemon juice but it just doesn’t have the sameness as a fresh lemon, not the same zing and definitely no lemon peel to zest. At times we accumulate a few lemon peels which I hate just pitching them out. We don’t have a garbage disposal in the kitchen (our garbage disposal = pigs) or I would run them through it as a cleanser for that clean fresh lemon scent. So what to do with the peels?

One day after making lemon curd, thinking vinegar cuts grease, lemon juice dissolves soap scum and hard water deposits - in combining the two would surely make my fleeces oil free and soft.

But what about that vinegar smell? There is still a bit of the vinegar stink but nothing as bad as straight vinegar, it’s fresh lemon scented vinegar.

I started adding lemon vinegar to each final rinse of the fleeces. How much? Well, the on line sites I read recommended a “glub” of vinegar. Come on a glub? I started with ¼ cup. Thinking less is best. The fleeces are soft, have no sheepy or vinegar smell. And another plus, lemon is also considered a natural pest repellant for fleece.

In the kitchen I have substituted the lemon vinegar in marinades and vinaigrette recipes. Not bad if I say so myself. Next will be using in making goat cheese to see if the lemon is noticeable.

Was grease in the fleece causing my problem? We will never know for sure. Shortly after I began using the lemon vinegar I learned the proper method in removing the batting. I was going about it all wrong, backwards to honest with you.

Til next time
Thanks for stopping by and have a great rest of the day!

October 18, 2010

New Additions & Breeding Groups

Hopefully, we are picking up the new additions to the Shetland flock this weekend. 5 new sheep, 2 ewes and 3 wethers. This means new sheep to spoil and 5 new colors in fleece.
Above is Minwawe Whirlwind, I fell in love with her lovely oatmeal color fleece as well as her markings. Below is Adrian her wethered ram lamb. The two are as probably as close to white as I am ever going to get.

This is Three Ring Buttered Rum, the photo below her is of her twins Timothy and Matthew.

These 5 woolly ones will round out the Shetland flock. Am now content with the size of our little flock, staying within my manageable number, have a variety of colors in fleece (light oatmeal, shades of brown, grey, black and black and white spotted) and there will be at least two ewes for each ram.
With the Shetland search and flock now closed, my next search will be for an Icelandic and a Merino ewe. Jim still swears he is going to have a pair of Merino wool socks out of this obsession of mine.
With the exception of the new ewes we are now officially separated into breeding groups.
Pitty Pat
The Sundance Kid(black buck)
Bella (black)
Aurora (white)
Bonnie Lass (white)
Fairchild (white)
Jacob's Chance(white buck)

I mentioned the scratching tree in yesterday's post. This is another view. The bark at the bottom continues to slowly be rubbed off.

Til next time...
Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

October 17, 2010

Fall Around the Farm

My camera does not show the true colors. It is beautiful out here in the woods. When the wind picks up the leaves fall like rain.

Hannah our Anatolian/GP cross guardian.

Pitty Pat at the scratching tree.
A dead tree we had topped a couple of years ago so it would not fall on the out buildings, turned into the goats and sheep favorite place to scratch.

The Shetlands going out to browse.

Downed branches and limbs still needing cleaned up.

Orange and yellow leaves overhead.

Sheared Angora does, Bella and Aurora

Bella, nope, not pregnant yet. Just well fed and fat!

Why fences don't last in the buck pens.
Might be a tad bit hard to see, though I am actually glad I was able to catch him doing this. Evidence as to why cattle panels need to replace all our field fence on interior pens. They don't seem to fight the exterior field fence at all, just up close to the house, shelters or where ever they can see us.
That's Jacob's Chance (white Angora herdsire) his horns are hooked through the fence. He is sharpening his horns on and with the fence. Once finished he will get a bit rowdy and start swinging his head back and forth as if he is mad at the fence or doesn't remember how to pull his head free. Our first Boer buck Jethro also destroyed fence in the same manner.

October 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Sister

Today is your birthday...hope your day is as special as you are.

October 15, 2010

Change of Plans

Well, it didn't work out as I had planned. Couldn't move the blog over. Actually had fits with the other blog layout and language. Almost deleted the entire website. Thank goodness I knew enough to stop before I really did severe damage. Wish I was not so computer illiterate. Head hurts as if I had been banging it against a brick wall... geez ...trying to figure out all the technical stuff, by no means as easy as they make it seem. No just click here or click there. Imagine if my 13 year old great niece were here she could move it in a heart beat, not struggle in a continuous 2 week effort as I did. Unfortunately she is not. So here we are and here we will stay.

Hey - Happy Fall Y'all!

The weather here has been amazing! Just Beeeeuu Ti ful! Love It!

Mornings are brisk and cool. Even a little frost out on the pumpkins. Afternoons are sunny, bright and warm. Perfect for working out and about the farm. Have accomplished much in the last couple of weeks, a bit of yard work, mowing, raking, re-potting plants to bring in the house for winter and turning garden spots under. Sorted through the remains of a couple old out-buildings. With the help of a neighbor we recycled the scrap metal. I cleaned up downed limbs and branches from previous storms we never had time to totally remove.

Last weekend was spent shearing the Angoras. Hooray they are done! I skirted as we finished each goat, now need to re-skirt and decide which fleeces I want to sell. I will list them on the website as soon as I can.

I have started two new craft projects. A rug from twisted roving and a felted wool blanket. I really should have taken photos from the beginning, didn't, but will as I continue through the processes to post at a later date. Have been washing and drying fleeces while the weather is warm. Hoping to have all nice and clean, ready for working over the winter months.

Now to the happy, happy, joy, joy news...saving the best for last...

Not sure if you remember back when we first decided to add the Shetland sheep to the farm I only intended to have wethers. Was not interested in breeding them. Thought I could have a nice spinners flock with just wethers. We started with the 4 woolly boys, Angus, Aberdeen, Kelly and Kirby. Loved all the little guys so much... we then had the opportunity to add Selena with her beautiful fine crimped fleece and Jackdaw our handsome spotted ram to breed to Pitty Pat and Scarlet. Deciding Jackie boy needed another Shetland ewe in his flock we added Lark and her son Jasper. Jasper was to be wethered but when Jim went to do the deed the little guy at a very young age was too large to band. Jim also loved Jasper's spotted fleece and gentle disposition so we kept him intact. Ok, I know....all this rambling just to say we are hopefully adding 5 more to the Shetland flock in a few days. 2 beautiful ewes and 3 wethers. More info and photos to come...stay tuned :-)