Maine Fiber Frolic 2017 Poster
MOFGA Common Ground Fair Poster

The Peeps Have Landed

Our barn is full of little peeps and I love the sound of them when I open the door.  They are just the cutest little things when they’re this age.

chix come via USPS

Our day began with a call from our Post Office.

  As you may have guessed from my writing about the chickens, I really do enjoy them no matter what their age but the little balls of fluff running around on those tiny legs are just so much fun.  Angela, from the Carpenter’s Boatshop, came by yesterday to pick up 7 dozen eggs (they feed 15 hungry apprentices and staff there) and we found ourselves standing in front of the brooder for wa-a-a-ay too long.  They’re fascinating and the effect of watching them is very calming.

the chicks huddle to stay warm

Once the boxes are opened, we move quickly to get them under the warm lights in the brooder.

 The meat birds we bought this year are new and different.  In the past, we’ve raised the white Cornish birds that are most common…and notoriously fragile ie they fall over dead at the drop of a hat.  We’ve always had very good luck with them and have lost very few… I think because we’ve pastured them and maybe the combination of more exercise, fresh greens & bugs and less processed feed was a good combination.  But recently, we heard and read about a new kind of bird that comes from French breeding stock.  It’s been bred essentially for meat but its behavior hasn’t been squelched so they’re still very active foragers…more like a normal chicken.

dipping beak

Each chick's beak is dipped into the warm water so it learns to drink. They learn very quickly!

  They grow a little more slowly than the Cornish birds but we’re not in a big hurry around here so that’s OK by us.  I can’t wait to get them out on the pasture and see them at work picking at those parasite eggs the sheep leave behind…a cleaning crew of 75!

chicks 2010

They begin to explore the brooder...it doesn't take long for them to find the food!

On my way home from Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival — yes, I did go and I’ll post about that soon — I picked up a dozen Welsummer chicks from a gentleman who lives very near the fairgrounds and just happens to be the neighbor of a Coopworth sheep friend.  I read about Will Whitmore and his fabulous chickens on a chicken yahoo group I visit from time to time…so I was thrilled when I realized where his farm is.  I feel very lucky to have some of his chicks here now and look forward to seeing the eggs they produce.

Welsummers 2010

A baker's dozen of Welsummer chicks wearing their baby camo fluff...but wait til you see them in their adult feathers!

  I’m going to try not to count the days til they start laying because it’ll be like the watched pot that never boils.  But when we get that first egg, I’ll be sure to post a photo.

Ewe Attitude

Maybe it’s because I know our sheep so well but I can tell exactly what these girls are thinking…

waiting impatiently

Ears back...I'm in the dog house.

This is usually because I’m taking too long to put out the morning buffet.  And here’s Tatum doing her impression of Queen Victoria.  Actually, I believe she was Queen Victoria in another life.  Oooo — the body language!

Tatum playing Queen Victoria

WE. are. not. pleased.

   What a character!

More Shearing Day

And now a little creative piece from Jim.  Enjoy!

Shearing Day(s)

lustrous silver fleece

Look at the lustre!!

Whew!  Shearing for this year is done!  We’re so lucky to have sheep that make such beautiful fiber and a “sheep whispering” shearer.  Mother Nature smiled upon us and gave us the most gorgeous day on Saturday.  She even brought on the sun just as we gathered to finish up on Sunday. 

Thanks to all who came to help, everything went smoothly.  The skirters — experienced and newbies alike — did an extraordinary job.  One of our CSA shareholders came from Florida via NH and she even had her husband skirting before too long!  I’m betting there’ll be very little for me to do when I get back into the fleeces.  And we must not forget the sweeper who keeps the shearing floor clear of debris… and those who got down and dirty in the sheep pen.  Without them the sheep wouldn’t make it to the shearing floor at all!  And then there were all the folks to came to cheer us on…thanks everybody!  What a fun day we all had!

Here are some photos.  Jim was having flash issues so some are a little blurred but hope you enjoy them anyway. 

shearing 2010

Emily gets started on the first sheep and the skirting crew waits to get their hands into the nice warm fleece.

keeping the floor clean

Penelope stands ready with her broom. That floor is so clean you could eat off...well, maybe not!

little helper

Little Minh has his broom and is ready to help Penelope.

picking up fleece

Kathy became an expert fleece picker-upper/thrower. Here she dives right in! The skirters await her throw...

shearing 2010

Our oldest visitor (80+) and one of our youngest look on as Emily shears.

many hands at the skirting table

Many hands at the skirting table make light work.

sunday skirters

The skirters roll up a pretty grey fleece.

action at the skirting table

Serafina opens a sheet for the fleece to be wrapped in.

Emily 2010

Emily, our "sheep whispering" shearer is calm and relaxed even after 5 hours of hugging sheep.

naked sheep

Only a few more to shear and the girls are starting to hint that they'd like their hay.

shearing day nosh

After the sheep are fed, we head to the kitchen for a well-deserved nosh.

See Spot's Spot?

Oh my — time flies — not sure I’m having fun but I’m really looking forward to our shearing weekend.  Jim and I have been busy getting the barn ready.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of “stuff” (being polite here) that can accumulate in a big old barn during the winter months!  There’s always more to do but I think we can shear without tripping over ourselves or each other now.  

While I was cleaning around the skirting table today I found a tag from one of last year’s fleece bags on the floor.  It read “Spot ??”  I had to laugh!  Spot is a sweet little white ewe with a lovely fleece…and a mystery.  

Here’s a photo of Spot as a lamb…you can see why she’s called “Spot” —

baby Spot

Little lamb, Spot, shows her spot.

Here’s Spot after she was sheared last year…notice something missing?

After shearing...no spot!

After her first shearing...no spot!

I haven’t looked under her coat recently.  Wouldn’t it be funny if her spot has reappeared?  Well, even if it hasn’t, she’ll always been known as “Spot.”

There are many mysteries when it comes to raising sheep…and somehow there aren’t any less as we learn more.  That’s  because Mother Nature is involved… and she always has something new and interesting up her sleeve!  I do think we learn to roll with the punches over time.  And hopefully, we learn from all the punches and from each other.  BUT…there’s always a “but”…genetics is another ball of wax entirely.  We would have to file the mystery of the disappearing spot under “genetics”…and more specifically “color genetics.”  

I know this is hard to believe but color genetics in sheep has just begun to be studied.  That’s because for a bazillion years, all black (colored) lambs were “done in”  before they could make more and usually the poor parents of the black lamb were also killed.  It was all about white!   I mean, what the heck were you to do with black wool?  You couldn’t dye it or anything, right?  (Wrong!)  Of course, if the black sheep had been around long enough for its fleece to grey or silver out, those folks who were all about white would’ve discovered all the fabulous colors that could be had from overdyeing shades of grey.  Oh well…  at least they got to enjoy a lamb dinner now and then.  Back in those days, you could lose your hands or tongue or something for eating anything other than a sheep that was no longer productive.  No wonder mutton got a bad rap… 

Anyway, I may just send these photos to someone who might know what happened to Spot’s spot …but I’ll wait until after shearing just in case it’s come back.