Monday, September 5, 2011

How we spend more time playing than working

We are working on a project on our duck stall/coop. There is something to say for getting up early, going out and feeding, cleaning, and working on a farm; even if it is a hobby farm.  I like chores but mostly I like being with the animals.  So, we try to keep the chores to a minimum.  I like having the animals but as soon as I feel like I am working more than playing with's time to change something. 

Since we are bringing the ewes in and out each morning and night, chores have more to them.  The ducks stay in a stall in the barn that has been converted into a coop.  Last year we lines the bars of the horse stall with chicken wire to make raccoon safe.  The ducks do really well in the stall as it's pretty insulated from weather.  Cool in summer and warm in winter but, it's messy.  In the morning we open the stall door and all the ducks come running out and down the barn isle.  While this is all well and good, they have to then go back down the isle to get back to the stall at night.  (they are free range during the day)  So, since this is a well traveled path, sometimes they hang out in the barn/stall/doorway or wherever.  So, needless to say, the poop is a bit much in the barn isle.  If you have ever lived with ducks, you know that mess they make.  Now, we cut down on the messy part by not offering water in the stall.  They go out, play in the pools all day and so we feel they can make it all night without drinking.  This makes the coop floor itself stay nice and clean for a number of days.  It also forces the ducks to keep moving; in the coop for food, out to the pool for water, etc.

There is one detail of shorter days coming and the early darkness means, to a duck, predators.  I have lost many ducks to raccoons and other things and I don't want to feed those creatures anymore.  We have been lucky here but that is exactly what it is, luck.  As the daylight gets less and less, we have to think more about our schedules to get home and lock up the ducks.  They go in the coop but, the door stays open.  Anyone that has had a 'coon in their coop...knows the carnage that is left behind as they all get cornered and that's that.  

We added some turkeys to our collection and they have added a new feature to the mess.  They roost and poop from above.  So, I added a roost in the barn as they tended to roost on the edge of the food bowls and crap in the food. A roost is simply a 2x4 screwed diagonally in the corner so they can get up off the ground. So, we added a roost, put a pen under the roost so the ducks can't get under them drop eggs under the turkey 'bathroom'  and now we are working on an outside entrance to the coop.

Paul cut a door and made a neat guillotine style door with cable and pulleys so I can open a door from inside the barn but NOT in the coop.  The birds go out and don't hang out in the barn isle anymore.  I put the nesting boxes (those ducks that use them) right by the door along with the feeders so I can do all I need without actually walking into the coop.  So, of course, me not wanting to spend my time 'working' with my hobbies and would rather play means, I can do even more.  Having this door to the outside also increaded our predator chances.  It means a raccoon doesn't have to come into the barn, walk all the way down the isle past other animals to find the ducks...he/she just walks to the outside of the barn and goes in a little door made just the right size.

This door was a hoot to try and get the ducks through.  The first time, we put them in the barn and through the big door as usual with the little door open.  So, down the barn isle, in the stall, and straight out the door...not missing a beat.  Geez, that was easy, they didn't even think about it.  Ok, we gave them a few hours to wander around and maybe go in on their own....yeah, right.

Dusk came and I thought I'd better get those ducks in before dark and loose all chances of teaching them a trick.  So, this time, I got the dog...good 'ole Trim.  If she and I can't do it then maybe Paul will take a few flank commands.  Trim rounded up all the ducks and the turkeys (they think they're ducks) and we (Trim and I) started to push them to the new little door.  All the ducks stopped at the door, looking for an escape but not ready to go through the hole.  I waited patiently, not pushing too hard so they wouldn't run over trim or me to get away.  I let them think about it for a 1/2 minute.  Jerraldine, a sensible runner, stood closest to the door with her head tilted, eyeing that hole.  The others were of course not going to be brave, but I was sure they would follow.  I suddenly hear from the back porch of the house, Paul, commentating on the scene.  "Duh, which way do I go? In the hole? I don't know what to do."door. Finally, as if on cue, Jerraldine went in and all the others followed.  After some work with the turkeys we got them in with the ducks. 

Tonight, we got home about 8:15 and all birds were inside...turkeys, too.  So, they learned the door in one day...

Day two...ducks go in and out for their food and "just because"...

So, it's time for the automatic door opener and closer.  No more driving home after staying out past dark wondering if the ducks are still alive or not.  This is the project now....stay tuned for photos and video.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What are we really telling our pets.... 1

While on vacation I started thinking about how I see a lot of owners handling their dogs in a way that is very confusing to me.  I watch them react to their dogs behavior in a way that is completely baffling.  I think, "why are they doing that, that is causing that problem but not making it stop"  Then, I realized, they just don't know, so they do what they think is best.

So, here is the scenario; Paul and I were walking Wiley (old dog) past the campground of people.  Coming from the other direction was a woman with three yorkies headed our way.  I said to Paul before they were close enough, "watch these dogs are gonna go crazy when they get closer".  Sure enough, even though we were on opposite sides of the street, they went nuts!  They were barking, growling, jumping in their little harnesses, and spinning around.  That poor woman!  I would feel sorry for her but she created this problem and it will only get worse.  This is what started my thought process of 'maybe she just doesn't know'. 

I am under the assumption that if a person has three dogs, then they must have a good amount of behavior knowledge to keep their house from being crazy.  But, sadly, no, they don't and I can't imagine the noise and frenzy that happens when her doorbell rings.  (of course, these might even not be her dogs but I will assume they are for this post)

This is what she did to 'stop' the situation.  She stopped walking, bent down, pulled on the leashes trying to reel them all in; all on flexi leashes, pinched one dog's mouth shut and held fast, said, "it's ok, no!, it's ok, Stop!" to the others in between yelling names randomly.  Meanwhile, Paul and I smiled, said, "hi" and never skipped a beat walking.  Wiley, never even showed an ounce of interest.  Now, you say, Wiley is deaf!  Yes, he is but he isn't oblivious and hasn't lost his sight or sense of smell.  He simply didn't care.  We kept walking and we began discussing with each other how everything she did was giving the opposite information to the dogs and she was actually causing all those problems.  I was inclined to think negatively about her and those dogs (I'm just being honest) but stopped and felt sympathy for her instead.  She has no idea what to do in that situation and was probably very embarrassed and encounters this behavior with all those little dogs often.  This will lead me to blogging about behavior and how to 'help' in these situations. 

I am a dog trainer and teacher to other dog owners that believes understanding your dog's behavior is necessary for all training to be successful.  So, here goes...

How she could have handled the situation without getting into a huge training session.  What does the owner do when she has little behavior knowledge and practice?

First thing, get through it; don't stop, don't acknowledge (the dogs), just pass through quickly and deliberately with no emotion (happy or angry).  Shorten your leashes as you walk with purpose, pulling the dogs behind you if needed.  Most importantly, be confident, do this like you know what your doing.  I think of it like dragging a garden hose across your yard.  It's heavy and the easiest way to pull is face forward, not even looking at the hose, walking a steady pace.  You don't yank, stop and start, or get angry.  Think of this when your dragging your dogs away from something they are barking at or pulling toward.  (this is skipping 'marking' all the good behaviors which I feel is too much for an inexperienced owner)  Just walk past the thing that makes them go crazy and keep going.  YOUR COLLAR/HARNESS NEEDS TO FIT!  If you pull your dog through this, make sure you can't pull them out of their restraint.  Snug that collar down....nothing worse than pulling them through only to have the collar slip over the head and now you're screwed. 

Second, do not under any circumstance, tell your dog, "it's ok"  You know how people jokingly add at the end of fortune cookies...."in bed" LOL!  Then, always think of finishing your "it's ok" sentence to fit the situation.   This will help you remember why it's not good to 'soothe' your dog.

"it's ok to bark at those people/dogs"
"it's ok to bark at the mailman"
"it's ok to growl at the neighbors dog"
"it's ok to want to chase that little kid on the skateboard"

Do you see where I'm going with this?  Every time you say, "it's ok" and try to soothe your savage beast, you are actually encouraging that current behavior.  This also works for scary situations.  Once again, tighten your collar down and walk confidently with purpose through and past the scary object or environment and don't acknowledge.  Remember to finish your sentence if you want to soothe your dog.

"it's ok to be afraid of the thunder"
"it's ok to shake and tremble at the fireworks"
"it's ok to whine and howl at the lawnmower"

Now, I understand and I'm aware of many other techniques to desensitize, build a positive relationship, operant conditioning, etc. but I am talking about the typical dog owner with only love in their hearts and no former training and knowledge.  What is the easiest and quickest way to get through that specific scenario I encountered while on vacation without harming the dog and without the watchful eye of a qualified trainer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Morning with the wooly and feathered friends

So, every morning, for now, I take the sheep on their walk to the pasture.  They know the routine now so it's just a relaxing walk from the barn to the field.  Thought I'd snap a photo on the way out.  These are the ewes heading out for the day.  Sometimes we still use the dogs, but today was a quiet, peaceful morning and the sheep seemed calm enough and not looking to go exploring.

After taking the girls out I then let out the feathered tenants.  Since acquiring 6 new ducks, we now have too many!  So, here are the 18 ducks and the 3 turkeys that think they're ducks.  There is a little sheep tush in the background eating breakfast.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Runner Ducks

So, we picked up the new ducks and let them out to the big world today!!  We kept them penned up in the duck stall for a day, so they could meet their new friends but not run away.  Then, today they got their first taste of 'free range'.  I think they love it but not sure what to do outside a pen.  They followed the current residents around wondering what all the fuss was about in every pasture.  Then, they settled in and started pecking for bugs and yummy stuff.  They climbed in the big pools, took a well needed bath, and preened in the sun.  So, they fit in great and seem to love their new home! 

These ducks are Indian Runners and are the gray color.  2nd from left is a hen, 3rd from left is the drake...and then on the right side of the photo, 2nd, 4th, and 5th from right are the other gray hens.  3rd from the right is our first 'trout' colored hen.  Trout color is a lighter version of gray and sometimes happens when you're breeding for grays.  I've always wanted trout and have a hard time finding them.  So, now there is one here...I think.  She is still young and we'll see how her color changes.  


Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Beginnings

Well, some new updates for our farm.  A month ago, we added to new members to our flock.  A big, muscle boy from Triple L Finns in Washington State.  We named him Dexter and he is brown.  This boy is going to be wonderful.  He came to us about the same size as our lambs but has now doubled in size.   I am very excited to add him to our breeding this fall for Spring lambs.  He is an out cross to all our ewes we currently have for breeding.

We also got from Leanne at Triple L Finns, an adorable ewe lamb that we named, Bella.  She is a grey and will carry that wonderful non-fading grey gene.   Her fleece is amazing.  So, soft, crimpy, and shiny.  Unfortunately, last week, she was taken from us by a coyote.  It was completely heart breaking.  I have had no trouble with coyotes until now.  I was a mess for a while and have tried to move on and we have been locking up the rest of the ewes until we figure this out.

RIP Bella, you were a wonderful girl with loads of potential! 

So, with a heavy heart we picked a ewe that was destined to leave the farm to stay back.  We are hoping for our top 10 ewes and 2 rams for keeping through the winter and breeding for Spring. Here is a picture of the current ewes after a storm.  All the lambs are gone and we are ready for a new season to begin.
ewes  (9 finns, 1 hair, 1 tunis)

This tragedy is now pushing us toward a new investment, a guardian animal for the sheep.  We talked with many sheep people and finally last night decided on a Llama.  I made a number of calls today and found a farm with 40 registered llamas about 35 minutes away.  This gentleman has placed llamas with a number of friends of mine to guard their sheep and his animals are great.  So, we went and picked out a female today, named Tango.  She is 10 years old, halter trained, been shown, hooves done, and handled a lot!  So, she is friendly, walked right up to Paul and loved the attention.  We will make the arrangements soon to get her here and start getting her acquainted with the sheep.  I was looking for a cheap llama just to guard the sheep and came to realize that my sheep are worth a lot to how much do you spend to protect them?  A very personal decision.  I also needed to take into account that I will be sending my dogs out to work the sheep and want to be able to remove the llama so it won't attack my dogs.  Bill, the owner of the llamas also stands behind every animal, so if she gets here and doesn't do her job, he will take her back and find one that will.  A wonderful guarantee.  

Then, after checking out the llamas, we headed out to the west side of Williamston to look at some runner ducks.  I met a gentleman that had the grey colors (mallard) and a trout color.  So, picked those up for a fantastic deal.  Now, to decide which current ones leave to go and live with my friends.  Yes, the friends homes are already set up and they will continue to be pets.  But, we don't have to feed them all winter and I can keep a variety of colors and quality.  I set up a smaller pen in the stall with the other ducks and they can learn to live with each other without actually being able to touch.  Then, when they are attached to my current ducks, we can let them out to be free-ranging and enjoy to paradise our ducks have here!  Pictures when they leave the stall - it's too dark.  

Continued another day......

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Life has a way of ...

It's been a while since my last post.  I realize that everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for more information, we the 4 followers I have...LOL!   So, here's a quick summary of what has happened here on the farm:

Lambs are almost sold for the year.  3 left to go to be exact with a few to be picked up.  We weaned the remaining ewe lambs and no one is happy.  Moved around the sheep into groups for grazing and separated all the rams/ ram lambs.  No unplanned breeding here in my sheep flock!   LOL!  We are expecting 3 ewes to lamb in mid August so there will be some lambs available this Fall, or we are planning some nice growth through the winter for Easter in the Spring.  I have some cuts available for purchase in the freezer now.  Let me know you are interested.   I'll keep you posted on babies, of course.  The two lambs I purchased from the wonderful Triple L Finns in Washington are doing really well and growing fast.  I am very excited to have their breeding added into my flock and will be expecting some great lambs in the Spring. 

We have two hens sitting on the same nest with 7 eggs.  We weren't planning this but, I'd rather let her sit in the barn, than nest out in the grass because we keep collecting eggs.  Besides, I might have a runner duck egg quota to fill soon.  Between an occasional phone call from advertising and my students, the duck egg taste is spreading.  They really are yummy.  So, we should have baby ducks any day now.  I'm checking every morning and the one hen, gets up, makes herself huge and hisses at me.  Paul thinks it might be that she knows it's soon and might be able to hear the babies peeping in their shells.  (I've heard that in the incubator up to two days before they hatch)  If you would like some colorful, entertaining, and great ducks, let me know.  We could have 7 available for purchase.

Everyone is doing really well in their classes.  I had a new session start this month in agility and have 4 wonderful students.  I have interest for next month and will be starting another new agility session on Thursdays in July.   Two of my students made it to CPE Nationals in Minnesota and did really well from what I hear.  So, I am very proud of them and all their hard work!!   Yeah!!! 

After an almost 6 year spell of working in dialysis as a certified tech, I will be heading down a new career path.  I am enrolling at MSU for veterinary school.  It will be a long haul but I do have a lot of my undergraduate courses from my existing degree to apply.  I am hoping 6 years maximum, but we'll see how running a farm, working, and going to school will be handled.  I am starting out with just a few classes this fall and hopefully going full time in the Spring or Fall of  2012.  So, wish me luck in returning to school.  It's been about 10 years since my graduate degree and as a music major, there wasn't a lot of classroom setting involved.  Guess I will go from a Michigan fan to a State fan....hope you can forgive me or congratulate me!  

So, that sums it up for now!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 1 of vacation!

Monday was officially the first day of my vacation and it was nice. It was about 36 degrees when we got up and I'm glad we haven't put in the garden yet.

I started out in the morning after chores, using Trim to move the ewes and lambs up to the big dog yard by the house.  I decided to use the grass I normally have to mow a lot for food instead.  It isn't the best nutrition but better than the field they have eaten down.   We have two yards with secure fencing so it won't upset the dogs at all and now they have something to watch.

It took me quite a while to get Tuija and her 4 lambs to go.  The rest of the flock has fallen into line with the herding dog, Trim, but she still doesn't get it yet.  Basically, while the flock took off on their own outside the fence, loose in the yard, Trim had to work and work just to get Tuija and those lambs out of the field.  I kept one eye on the flock slowly moving toward the road and munching on grass, while the other eye on Trim and helping her push Tuija.  It took about 10 minutes to get her out of the pasture and the rest of the flock had wandered across the 5 acres stretch to the front yard.  We (Trim and I) finally got her and the rest together and into the dog yard.  It's nice tall grass, clover, and a little alfalfa with some leafy trees for shade.  Plus the weather is cooler so they can eat eat eat!   The plan is to leave them there for a month while we seed their other pasture and add fencing to a couple of the others.

"happy flock"
 I guess I shouldn't be too worried about the nutrition level of our pastures as this is Betty (black) and her 12 week old ewe lamb (brown).  That's the kind of size we want!! When babies outgrow moms, that's exactly what we are trying to produce. "I made that"

After that move, I delivered a ewe lamb to a friend and visited her farm and with her family for most of the afternoon.  She gave me some wonderful tomato plants for our garden and some of her delicious homemade sheep cheese!   mmmm.  Horseradish Monteray Jack, Dill cheddar, and Tomato basil cheddar!   Paul has asked me about making cheese so I thought, who better to ask, than an expert!  So, in the future maybe!  Her milking sheep, by the way!!  Is trained!  Ha, the ewe jumps right up on the milking table by voice command!  Nice, as a dog trainer, I am very impressed.  If you knew how 'touchy' this ewe is about being handled, you would see how really impressive the feat truly is!

When I got back home, Paul was close behind.  We got to mowing the grass.  There is a lot of grass here and even the sheep can't keep up.  We moved Hemi out to a pasture to graze for his last couple weeks.  He has been isolated for so long and we be leaving soon.  I would love to keep him but, just can't take the risk.  So, he is out on grass for his last meal.  :(

On a brighter note, I have almost solidified the travel plans for the two new lambs due to arrive on Saturday coming all the way from Washington state.   Mmmmm, a white ram carrying brown recessive and possibly fading.  A big boy!  Also, a gorgeous dark steely grey ewe lamb.  A big girl! Completely unrelated to my flock and with the characteristics I am so looking for to finish off the flock.  I can't wait!!

On to day 2!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Broken Hearts

So, this morning is time to wean the lambs.  It's sad for a few of them because I am separating into ewes and rams, not just lambs and Moms.  I'm not interested in breeding for Fall lambs as I had originally planned.  Too much work this year.  So, just made a little run-in in the big shelter and electronetted off a small area for the boys.  Looks like we have 6 boys including Walker, our big boy and the father.   I fenced in this beautiful grassy area and they haven't decided it is safe yet.  Walker has been out and in and out and in but the young lambs, just aren't having anything of the new field.  So bold when behind Mom's skirt but now, they are scared and sad.  So sad are the cries of these little least favorite time of year for sheep.

Someday when they go outside, I will get a picture that shows their beautiful grassy pasture but for now, I will have to settle with the dirt floor of the barn.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flint River Ranch now has Antler Dog Chews!!

Flint River Ranch dog/cat food and treats now carries antler chews for dogs.

Deer Antler Dog Chews

A long lasting chew treat straight from Mother Nature! Deer, elk and caribou naturally shed their antlers every spring. The naturally shed antlers are gathered, power washed with water, cut, and the sharp edges removed to give your dog a healthy, safer chew. So much better than your couch or shoes! Each antler is sold by weight and will vary in length and diameter from piece to piece, just like nature intended!
  • No Odor
  • No Grease or Mess
  • Long Lasting
  • Does not Splinter Like Bone
  • Helps Clean Teeth Naturally
  • Does not Contain Chemicals
  • Contains Calcium, Phosphorous and Potassium
  • No Fat
click on products, then dog treats.

Or follow the link on my website.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fabulous Fleece!!!

Wow Wow all I can say.

Sunday I finished the shearing.  Back breaking work that I don't know how the pro's do it so fast and soooo many at at time.  I got down to about 20-30 minutes for each sheep.  I began to realize, as this is my first season of shearing myself, that the better quality the wool and the healthier the animal...the better the shearing goes for everyone.  Including the sheep.

I saved the last three kind of on purpose, and kind of not.  Two of them, the fleece was going back the most recent owner as that was part of our deal.  I wanted to practice on all the other ones before doing hers to do a good job.  My last sheep, the one I call 'wild woman' was last because I couldn't catch her.  So, I did the two I wasn't keeping their fleece.  The first was Tuija and she was a pain!   She wouldn't stand still so I flipped her on her butt and she fought and fought and fought.  She needed her hooves trimmed, too, so those kicking feet seemed lethal!  Not really but, it felt that way every time she got a dig in my arm or neck or whatever skin contact she made with me.
 Tuija with Kaarina in background

If you have ever sheared a sheep on it's butt, you know that you hold them leaning against your legs and work quickly.  This means, you really need two hands while they are leaning on your legs.  Most sheep, just relax and "hang-out" in this position.  NOT Tuija....ugh.. so hard and she was kind of dirty.   Her lambs climb on her a lot and I think this is a good reason for the dirt.  Well, that dirt gunked up my shears pretty fast and that didn't help at all.  Finally, after about 45 minutes, I got her done.  After getting the blanket off her on her butt, I flipped her up to her feet to finish and make all look neat and clean.  (she wasn't on her butt for 45 min) She leads great, though!!

Now, I dreaded Kaarina.  She has been a hard one to catch and hold.  She's big and doesn't like us.  She will stand outside during chores until she knows we are leaving the barn, then bring in her lambs, and eat.  Well, I grabbed a bucket of feed and walked in to 'pretend' to feed.  Don't know why, but she fell for it, walked right up to the feed trough and.....I GRABBED HER!   HAHAHAHHAHA...sucker! 

Kaarina post-shearing.  

Well, got her halter on and got set to drag her down the isle to the shearing tarp.  What do you know, she leads....fantastic!  She screamed for her lambs the whole time but that was all.  I tied her to the wall and she stood perfect for me.  I had her done and cleaned up in about 30 minutes.  Beautiful fleece and easy as pie to take off!  Thanks so much to Tiffany at Woodspryte Finns who picked her from Bella Vita farm with her Firefly background.   She is the best mother and now I know about her wool.  It just melted off her, the way it should be.  She's in great weight and all looks good.  So, after some scratching, thanking her and 'leading' her back to the rest, I was confident to tackle the last beast.

 The photo is Kaarina back with two of her three fat little lambs.  
This is a view I'm very familiar with during grazing...butt shots.

So, I'm standing there, looking at her...while she looks back at me.  This ewe isn't very big, but she's a freak.   She has been since I got her as an 8 week old.  Always eyeing us, always hard to catch.  She also had a bad case of the runs so you can imagine what the backside of this fleece looks like.  (we skirt that out anyway) So, got the grain again and knew she wasn't falling for it, so I went to the stall we sometimes run them into and dumped out the grain and walked away like I was checking the water, the fence, etc, the usual morning routine.  After watching me closely, her love of food overcame her and she slid into the stall.  Got her.  Now, in a 12x12 stall a sheep can still be a handful.  She ran and threw herself into the sides, jumping and running and panicking....that's her new name, by the way. "panic"   I finally got a hold of her by the wool.  Something I hate doing but the only thing I could do.  She's little so I was able to hold her down pretty well, get a halter on for extra safety and now make the 50 foot trek to the shearing area.  We alternated going down the isle running forward like a scared rabbit, lying down as dead weight, to turning around and ramming me out of defense.  It seemed to take forever and how was I going to be able to shear after that workout. 

So, it began.  I sat her on her butt as I didn't want to take any chances.  So, we started and she sat very still with complete panic in her eyes but frozen still.  That's ok, I can work fast and get her back where she goes quicker.  This sheep is listed for sale on my site by the way....LOL!  Good luck!
"Panic" in her rare, calm moment.

I started at the top with the neck wool and it started easy.  Hmmmwatch her wool and see the underneath.  This is what it's all about.  It felt like velvet.  So shiny, so gorgeous, so amazing.  I have never seen anything like it.  I'm no fleece expert by any means but have seen and felt lots of breeds through the years.  About 1/2 way through, about 10 min., I decided she wasn't for sale anymore, not with this fleece.  Black as night, so shiny, so crimped, and soft.  It came off in one whole piece, just like the I watched those guys do for so many sheep in the past.  The whole thing, not just the blanket.  Legs, neck, belly, butt...(heavy skirting later)  but easy easy and my shears were still clean as can be afterward.   She's amazing.  Thanks to Eldorado Finns for this one!  Looks like her background is quite a bit Wee Croft and a little Triple L but through Terri, I got her and she will be name, "Panic" because as soon as I stood her up after a little cheek scratching that she seemed to enjoy....she panicked again!  What a ding-a-ling.

 "Panic" after shearing her fabulous wool!

Not the best photo as I won't be getting close to her anytime soon.  I will get a shot of the fleece when I get to working on it soon.  Maybe next week during my vacation!

 Just look at that staple length.  I can't tell you how gorgeous it is!
I will get a weight and a photo of the luster tomorrow.  I can't wait to get working.
It should be beautiful to spin with the jet black color into the 1 inch sun bleached tips.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

First "why do we" question of the Spring

Two nights ago, I was heading home from an orchestra rehearsal about 10pm and got the phone call that I was waiting to get,; or expecting to get now that the grass is out and the weather is warmer.

It was Paul...."why do we even have these horses anyway!". 

He was referring to the Arabians that are now kept in the day pasture to graze with no run-in.  This means, we move then back across to the night paddock at the barn each morning/evening. 

Well, that question was a hard one..he was irritated and I wasn't sure how to proceed.  So, I said..."uh-oh, what happened"   I thought a question answered with a question was best, although I don't think he was asking me.

"Your horse is a crazy nut-job"  was the answer I got.

Thinking to myself, she's really sensible, actually.  And a babysitter for itty bitty little kids. 

"oh, why?"  I replied

"She wouldn't come in, so I tied Nelly (his horse)....."   This is where I got nervous.  Nothing good ever comes of the phrase, 'I tied' when involving a horse at night, at feeding time, with the other horse jumpy and an inexperienced horse person.

"I couldn't catch your horse, so I got a lead rope and tied my horse to the post at the gate, then walked over to your horse to catch her.  I didn't want to walk them both with just halters and be between those crazy things." 

That was a smart move on his part....but just not the tying of Nelly, while Saphra is avoiding him.  She influences Nelly in a positive and negative way.

"I walked up to your horse, and she kept backing away.  Next thing, I hear a ruckus behind me and turned to see Nelly dragging the post and the fence all the way across the pasture.  I caught her and got her in the night paddock and your horse got loose and started running all over that a psycho!" 

Well, long story short.  The horses still live here and no one got hurt, just annoyed and frustrated.  They don't like to be separated when loose and can be a handful if you let them. He did manage to get them back where they go before help good friend up the road was armed and ready as I was still an hour away.  The horses will now stay in the day pasture until I get there and we've decided and agreed they will be fine left without shelter.  They can, at least get up next to another barn and be fine with shade and a wind break. 

This morning we sunk a new post and put up some new boards and the horses are happy to be back in their green yummy pasture.   And, no, they are not psycho and crazy.  They are just horses and anyone who knows any horse can 'freak out' at any time under the right circumstances.  They really are good girls, easy keepers, and very 'broke', but they aren't dead.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


After my morning coffee, I went to the barn to check on the animals and feed.  After answering all the crying for food, the ducks, horses, sheep, and lambs are fed, watered and now out grazing and foraging as they do all day.

For the last couple weeks, we have been getting tons of eggs.  Some of the ladies are laying twice a day which is wonderful...although we have tons and tons of eggs!  So, maybe some egg salad today?  I love egg salad but, that's a lot of egg salad.  HA!

We will sell any eggs for eating or hatching.  Let me know!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sheep Shearing!

Well, I managed to get two more ewes sheared this weekend around all our other plans.  Yesterday, I went to my friend's farm to help with the first group of lambs.  She has Mule and North Country sheep.  We dewormed ewes and castrated and docked lambs.  Aww, kind of sad, but very necessary on the lambs.  After than, I managed to get home and get Betty done.  Basically, I walk into the run-in part of the barn with grain and the first one I catch is the lucky winner.  Betty won.

Betty had wonderful fleece...I was very happy with her.  Dark black, shiny and easy to shear.  Soft as can be with sun bleached tips for a very nice spinning blend.  She was fairly easy to do as she became friendlier after lambing this Spring. 

Today, I taught lots of lessons, sold two ducks and got a deposit on a ram lamb.  Very nice day with sunshine and warmth in the afternoon.  Decided about 5pm that I needed to get out to the barn and pick another winner. So, the lucky Michigan lottery went to Jan.  She was the one lucky enough to come up for grain and got picked for shearing.  Worked out well because she was panting a lot as the heat is setting in for the summer. 

Jan is in front, a tunis texal cross.  Beautiful fleece that I think would be great for a project. Dewey is in the background, she was the first to get sheared a couple months ago.  I'm definately improving on my skills.  I used to hire someone to shear until this year as I decided to take matters into my own hands.  And, it's getting better each time!!   If it wasn't for my back, I would actually like it, I think.

Three more to go...we'll see if we get done this week!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring, oh Spring, when will you arrive?!

Well, we are still pushing forward even though the weather is pushing back... 

Yesterday, I managed to shear the other ram, Hemi.  He was soooo easy but had a larger amount of lanolin than the others, so the blades had to be cleaned as I went along.  The fleece is beautiful and ran by the Spinning Loft to get a pro's opinion and she bought it on the spot.  Nice!  Love that, of course.  I trimmed his feet and we are getting ready to try and breed for fall lambs.  Hemi won't be staying so, going to try and get a couple more babies from him and hopefully a nice ram lamb to replace him.  He gave us all ewe lambs this time and normally, that's great...but really wanted one of his sons to stay on the farm. 

We had a fecal done and got our Spring deworming done in a  heartbeat.  Now, the rotation of pastures can start to help control parasites.  Horses tested, too, although parasites are species specific.  I won't deworm unless I know exactly what I am battling...keeps from developing resistance to dewormers besides the obvious fact that there are many different worms and parasites to choose from.

I set up the electro-netting to have a holding pen for the parasite control until we get the new fencing installed.  We are planning to fence the horse pastures (2 strand hot-wire) with field fence for the sheep.  This way, we can rotate all over the farm and let grass grow and keep the animals from pooping out parasites and ingesting them as the graze.  This is really good when you have multiple species of grazing animals.  If a horse ingests a sheep worm, it will die in the horse.  (or die on the ground) So, you can utilize your pastures by sharing pastures. 

If you felt like sending me a gift....LOL....I could always use more eletro-netting by Premier.   Hint-Hint!

Well, off to shear some more girls!!  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ewe Tube

Phew!!   The lambing season is finished. I really can't imagine having a larger farm and having so many lambs!  I had 20 lambs born, 17 lived, 3 did not.  2 were gone when we found them, 1 got very sick and died within a week (even after vet. intervention) I guess the odds are fairly good and normal but, I still don't want to loose lambs.  So, next year, I plan to be even more prepared.  Although, I have lambed before, the Finns are different.  There are so many at once and it can be very difficult or "easy as pie".  Most of the mom's did a fantastic job and wanted all of their babies and are taking excellent care of them.  A couple, however, were born very small and if I hadn't intervened with tubing or assistance in reaching the udder, I'm certain they wouldn't have survived. I sold a few as bottle lambs unregistered.  That way, they got the love and nutrition they needed and can be excellent fiber pets for wonderful families.  We will also be letting a number of our adults go to other homes.

Part of our goals are to produce multiple lambs without needing assistance and large lambs from large sheep.  We want fantastic fleece and lots of milk.  So, that being said, I am not registering all of the lambs.  I don't believe everything needs to be bred and registered, just because they have all the parts to breed.  After many years of breeding working Border Collies, I have learned that you need to be objective about your goals and your breeding stock.  I also love that the Finnsheep is bred for function not "good looks" (unless it's fleece quality)  So, that being said, we are looking hard at our sheep and will be making some very difficult decisions. 

My next step is to have the fleece tested!   All the colors born here is the best ever as I have so much to choose from but, at the moment, most everything is for sale.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ewe Tube update

On Saturday night, we had our Kaarina lambs born.  Triplets!  Beautiful and colorful.  Kaarina is a great mom and has plenty of milk.  After two days, we let her out to join the rest of the flock and she kept her babies away from us for the whole next day.  Now, she is better and more trusting so I could get some good pictures. 

This is a ewe lamb (grey badgerface)

This is a ewe lamb (black)

This is a ram lamb (white carrying black and spotting)

Then a couple days later we had a litter of quads born out of Tuija!
Wow!!!  I can't believe the cute factor here!!

This is a broken (spotted) badgerface ewe lamb

This is a badgerface ram lamb

Also included is a black ram lamb and a black ewe lamb but I don't have pictures yet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ewe Tube update

Whew!  It has been a busy couple days.  I had a concert to play last week which had me gone every evening so away from the farm.  Our ewe, Wild Woman....and she's every bit living up to her name, lambed.  We expected by her size to have a single and all would be fine.  She had a nice udder and all seemed fine.  Unfortunately, Friday night as I checked on her and then left for the evening, she lambed while no one was here and had triplets.  Paul came home to find the sad situation.  Two dead lambs (one out of sack, not cleaned and the other still in sack) and one teeny little cry of a live, clean and dry baby that couldn't stand.  All three, ewe lambs and all approximately same size and development.

The sheep were alone for 5 hours, completely normal for us, and Mom lambed early.  The babies were very premature and if we had been here, I can't say if the other two would still be with us now.  Every year is a lot of work and I'm still learning but, it doesn't make it any easier.  The Mom is wild and scared and not sure why she ignored them, or even is she did, except that she is young and just had triplets.  So, the one live baby, was too small to walk and too small to nurse on a less than attentive Mom, so we brought her inside.  If I was able to stay home the next day, I would have left baby with her and just made sure she nursed every 2 hours but, that was not the case...someone has to pay for all these animals.  I took her to work to make sure she was eating.  We ended up tube feeding most of the first day until she was interested in a bottle.  Tube feeding assures they get the food and won't confuse baby as much between mom and bottle 'feel'.  

"Tiny" weighed at 2.7 lbs less than 24 hours old

You can see she is only a little taller than a normal travel mug.

When I got home, I put baby back with mom.  Both were very happy about this situation and I thought all might be fine but, the weather was turning colder and baby wasn't strong enough or coordinated quite enough to follow mom to be able to nurse.  Even in the small pen they were in, I wasn't convinced she would stay warm and get any milk without my assistance.  The temperature was dropping as I watched the two. Mom eventually became indifferent to her.  She wouldn't care if baby tried to nurse, didn't push her away, but didn't stand still long enough and wasn't nurturing to her.  So, I brought baby in for the night.  I thought I would continue to take baby out with me to nurse on mom at frequent intervals and maybe she would get strong enough and the weather would warm tomorrow.  I got up in the middle of the night, took her out to try to nurse and nothing.  Baby too cold to nurse, mom scared, hard to catch and be calm even in the small pen.   Eventually, I became frustrated enough with lack of sleep, working extra hours, and trying to make nature happen the way it should;  after 3 days, I gave up.  So, little black ewe lamb became, "Tino-might" and moved in with us, diapers and all.

see the shoes?  Either Paul has big feet or this is a tiny lamb.

Here is her home in our kitchen in her crate.

Normally, I would crop these photos to hide some of our "living space" but I want to show her size. 
Did I say Tiny?

So, I had to work Monday, all day, so I brought her along with me.  All of my colleages are loving this arrangement and she is fast making god-parents. 

At this time, Mom has plenty of milk, so we milk her and feed baby.  At 3 days old, she weighed 3.1 lbs so, she is gaining and doing well.  We have been following the schedule and amounts in the blue Laura Lawson book "Managing Your Ewe and her Newborn Lambs".  It has a nice formula for calculating amount of milk needed based on baby's weight.  We have only been using Mom's milk so she got plenty of colostrum and has plenty of milk. 

So, RIP to her two sisters.  Not sure what the outcome would have been if I was there but, also not sure if I could handle 3 preemie bottle babies and work full time and own a business.  I am extremely happy that Mom had triple ewes at 11 months old and we'll have some tough decisions to make in the future for breeding, keeping and selling as the flock grows and we push to our goals. 

Such is life and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Next due date:  April 2

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ewe Tube and Fleece!!

After a wonderful visit with my Dad and no lambs, I returned to my normal routine.  This started early Monday morning with a quick trip out to the barn.  My offer the two smallest lambs some milk from a bottle, fill the milk bucket and just check on everyone.  Of course at 4 am before heading to work is when little Jan decided to show me her new baby.  He is adorable and what a chunk!! 

We named him "Jack"

He has a very neat coloring that can't be seen in the picture.  He has a dark red with grey/silver tint to his fleece.  It will be interesting to see what it turns out to be. 

Jan is a good momma and very protective of her baby.   So, that brings our total to 5 lambs and yet another color.  :)  

Little update on my fleece.  Turns out, it's fantastic fleece!  I didn't ruin it at all but....and there is always a but.  There is too much VM (vegetable matter - HAY)  in the wool.  So, I'm off to try and think of a way to keep them cleaner when they eat.   The feeder allows them to get covered in hay and it's hard to get out of wool.  She wanted to get some Tunis wool and I just happen to have 4 leftover fleeces from my Tunis flock a few years ago. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's fleece time!!

Well, I sheared little Dewey/Daisy yesterday with my new shears.  Let me tell you, Daisy was a champ, and the shears weren't.  So, I'm going to have to call the company tomorrow and talk to them.  I have used other brands and they worked so well and these didn't do the sheep any justice.  So, after too long, I finished her up and went in to relax in front of the wood stove.  Early this morning, I spread out a sheet and began the task of skirting and picking the vegetation out of the fleece.   I remember something about wanting to blanket the sheep before the "hay" season started and that is something I think I will look into this year.  Wow!  2 hours it took and it's not all out, and only kept 1/2 the wool.  

Note to self:  got to get a weight scale.  Fleece is sold, purchased raw based on weight.  (not only but mostly)

  I am also not sure if I didn't ruin the wool with those dang clippers.  So, off to the spinning friends this week for some good constructive criticism.  Looks like I've got some nice crimp and some 3-4 inch locks.  But, this is my first lamb to fleece, so I'll let the experts look it over.

After I talk to the manufacturers of my shears, I'll try again, or send them back and purchase another brand.  Time will tell and I don't want to ruin my future fleece. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ewe tube

I have started a 2011 lamb video with our babies.  It's not finished as the lambs aren't finished.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ewe Tube!

Well, life is good at Borderhauss!  The lambs are doing really well.  We had a little ewe get an upper respiratory infection but is doing much better.  Everyone is eating and playing and growing!
I am so excited for all the color already!  Woo hoo!  We love color!  I can't wait for the other lambs to arrive.  More "ewe tube".

Sunday, February 20, 2011

ewe tube in full swing

Today was an eventful day for us at the farm.  We got home late last night to find another little Finn lamb born from Dewey.  Registered Daisy.  She had a cute little white ewe.  So, that was a nice surprise.  It's the loudest little thing ever and Dewey is great Mom!  So, all is well, off to bed. 

We got up the next morning to go out and check on the Moms.  As we walked into the barn, there were a bunch of little legs all around a couple moms.  Dewey had picked up a couple new lambs and big huge Maggie, wasn't so big anymore.  She was in the corner with a single lamb.  So, we stood there trying to make sense of the confusion.  We figured out that Maggie had triplets, spotted black and white.  Two look like little cows and one was all black! 

So, our big problem now...Maggie doesn't want her babies.  After giving birth to these triplets, she's confused, in pain, and tired.  To her, these foreign sheep are a threat and caused all that pain.  So, one of the her babies had gotten tired of trying to nurse on Maggie and getting rejected, so she wandered off to find a Mom that would let her nurse.  Behold, little Dewey took that lamb as one of her own.  Maybe because the two moms lambing so close to each other in time?  Dewey wasn't really sure either, but we aren't questioning it and just let her take care of the new baby!

Now, we are left with trying to get Maggie to take care of the other two.  She will allow one of them to nurse, probably the first born.  She won't however, let the other nurse.  So, in the sheep world, we confine or tie the ewe and let the little girls nurse away and Mom can't get away or head butt them.  They are strong babies and are fighting to get to the udder, so with Maggie tied to the hay feeder with food and water, babies can get in there and eat.  Yum!  We'll give her some time to get accustomed to her babies and hopefully she will develop her motherly instincts.  They are beautiful, though, and all girls. 

Sorry for the placenta in the picture...I don't even think twice about that anymore. :)  That is about how far Maggie can lower her head, otherwise, she butts them away.  Now, our total lamb count is up to 5 colorful ewes.  Yeah!!  There is still a little confusion between moms as they all learn each other's calls, but it gets worked out eventually.  We have three more ewes to lamb any day, then a break for the next group. 

In the meantime, we needed to stay around the barn to watch Maggie all day so, off to Home Depot to rent a mini excavator and fix the water hydrant that rusted out in the barn.  Looks like Paul on his little tonka toy!

A small but mighty machine.  He dug up the pipe through the frost in about 1 hour.  We got the new hydrant and Paul put it in...yea, I did help shovel the dirt back in the hole, a little.  :) 
I'm having fun but this is a lot of work.  Feel like we didn't do much today but I'm beat!  I wish I knew exactly when babies were on their way!  OH yeah, we got 6 inches of snow that fell right after all this fun!!