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She did it again…

I’ve been keeping an eye on the nest in the barn.  Mama bird almost immediately set about laying a new clutch after her first batch of babies had fledged.  She’s built her nest so close to the loft floorboards that I can’t see how many eggs  there are.  We were trying not to bother her too much while she was setting.  But then…

new birds

Difficult to see how many there are but they're pretty new.

growing fast

growing fast -- it looks like maybe 5 are in there


Almost all have left the nest now.

empty nest

All gone!

Passing the Baton

About eight years ago, Jim and I heard about the Youth Conservationist Program (YCP) while we were at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.  Right away we thought it’d be really cool to participate … what could be better than to work with a young person to foster sheep husbandry.  It sounded like fun and we weren’t going to get the chance to do it at home.  So after talking to a number of sheep folks who had taken the plunge and hearing their pro’s and con’s, we decided to go for it.

The YCP is really all about conserving heritage sheep breeds but Coopworths are accepted into the program because their numbers are few in the US…even though not globally.  So…in 2005, we contacted Elaine Ashcraft —  the Coordinator of  the YCP and an absolutely amazing woman who’s devoted to youth and sheep and putting them together — and signed on to donate a yearling ewe at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival that year.

A month or so before the Festival, we received an overstuffed envelope  full of essays written by a bunch of  kids from a bunch of states mostly east of the Mississippi.  We read them all…many times…it was difficult…argh! but also lots of fun!  In the the end, we chose Erinn from Pennsylvania.

YCP 2005

This is Erinn and me at the YCP presentation in 2005. I've just handed over EllenG, the sheep.

We’ve stayed in touch since then…always loved getting the news and photos of lambs in the Spring…and were sad when we heard about the not-so-fun stuff that inevitably goes along with raising livestock. Erinn built a nice little Coopworth flock. No doubt, family support and a background in raising livestock at home was a huge help. But now she’s almost all grown up and is going off to college in the fall so it’s time to reduce the number of sheep she’ll leave behind for the family to care for.

This year at Maryland, Erinn participated in the YCP again…on the giving end!  She read all the essays, chose the recipient, got her ewe to Maryland and — the super fun part — presented the ewe to a young lady from North Carolina at the YCP event.

YPC 2010

Here we are -- Marissa, Erinn & me -- at the YCP presentation. We're happy but the ewe's had just about enough and would like to go home please!

And Elaine was on Cloud 9 because four former recipients donated ewes this year.  This is the way it’s supposed to work — YAY!  Here’s a group shot of everybody (and their sheep) after the YCP presentation.

YPC group

There were lots of participants this year...shepherds in the making.

Thank you Roger for the photo of Marissa, Erinn and me!

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We all know I don’t post regularly so it’d be silly to say I hadn’t posted recently because our internet has been sketchy.  But it is true that our cable was acting up last week and it got progressively worse until finally on Thursday, it pretty much died.

So while we were waiting for the tech & cable guys to show up, I got some shots of the critters around here…

I caught Lark tormenting poor old Skye…such a naughty girl. He’d really like to nip her nose but he looks away because he knows he’s not allowed to…and I’ve got my eye on him. ;>)naughty Lark

Been watching this nest for awhile.  Like we don’t have enough birds around here!

full nest


empty nest


 Our Rangers are getting big and loving the grass.  They eat slugs, too!rangers ranging

I imagine it’d be nice to join these girls…


And here’s my friend Jolie…Jolie



That’s it for now…

Scooping Poop

A lot of what we do around here isn’t glamorous.  Surprised?! 

During the five or six months that the sheep have access to their shed, they deposit quite a bit of poop in there.  Why?  Well, because given the choice of pooping inside or outside, they’ll usually choose inside.  I often wonder whether they’re marking their territory or just doing it to make us crazy.  In fact, it’s probably because they’re sheep and they just poop wherever they happen to be standing.  But we get to clean it up once a year.

So right about now you’re scrunching up your nose and making a face and thinking “Wow…they only clean the shed once a year…that’s disgusting!”  Believe it or not, this is a well respected/accepted method of bedding animals that was developed in Denmark (or thereabouts).  We layer straw on top of the poop regularly and as it begins to compost, it generates heat.

deep bedding

The bedding gets pretty deep and is quite compact.

 There isn’t any nasty ammonia smell because we make sure there’s lots of fresh air moving through. The shed is very open — no solid doors or windows — and the fresh layers of straw keep the odors at bay.

tractor in shed

We use the tractor wherever we can...small tractors can be useful!

 The sheep are cozy during the winter months and the bedding is breaking down and becoming good stuff we’ll use in the garden or pasture.  Last year, we housed our piglets in the shed after the sheep had moved out and they helped the cleaning process along by rooting up the packed bedding.
clean shed

After a couple of afternoon's work, the shed is clean and our compost pile is revived.

But this year, we cleaned up before the pigs arrived so we just used the tractor and people/pitchfork power to get it done.  All the bedding went into the compost pile and is happily cooking away.

inspection ewe

Spot does a thorough inspection after the shed has been freshly bedded.

 Spot approved our work and showed her gratitude by making a deposit!  Thanks, Spot! a memory

Usually it takes me a few days to recover from Maryland…mostly it’s the long drive that gets to  me.  But this year wasn’t normal… it was SUPER HOT!  Considering that it was snowing in parts of Maine on the day I left, the heat was kind of like a punch in the gut.  All that aside — the festival was as wonderful as ever — although it is becoming very BIG.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people there…

maryland crowd

The main boulevard into the fairgrounds was well travelled all day Saturday -- and take a look at that parking lot in the background!

I participated at the American Coopworth Registry booth again and our members brought together a wonderful selection of Coopworth products…a lot of talent in this group!  The booth was well stocked with everything from handmade woolie greeting cards and pins to hats designed with tons of woolie locks knitted in and looking like a wild head of hair…and lots of beautiful yarn, roving & fleece of course. (photo by Martha)

ACR booth MD 2010

Our booth was busy...serious fiber folks don't let the weather get them down.

This year our group was invited by the Festival Committee to participate in the Breeds Display Barn…just 2 weeks before the Festival — yikes!  Luckily, one of our junior members was bringing sheep so that was one big hurdle taken care of…and our member who does the Coopworth Breed Display at Rhinebeck jumped right in and volunteered to take this on.  And here’s the result of their efforts — WOOHOO to Kris and Erinn!!

MD breed display 2010

A beautiful selection of Coopworth products and loads of photos of our members' sheep.

winning MD breed display

The judges awarded us Champion of the Wool Breeds Division & Grand Champion overall!

Didn’t do much shopping this year — picked up a book for a friend and a replacement part for my Woolee Winder.  I was tempted by some beatiful fiber but behaved myself.  Mostly, I spent a bunch on water, lemon and limeade and a couple of very tasty lamb lunches enjoyed with friends in the shade of a big old tree.