Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Comes to Cavalli Run

This is our first Christmas at our new farm. We saw this place just a few days shy of a year ago. It was completely covered with snow and it was BEAUTIFUL. I knew at that moment that this was the land I had been dreaming of for years. I have been hoping for a white Christmas this year. I wanted to see my beloved farm under snow on Christmas, just as I had first seen it. I was losing hope, but Christmas Eve morning we woke up and we already had a couple of inches. By noon we had about 5 inches or so. It is just breathtaking! And I feel so blessed. Here's our Christmas tree. It's a bit of a Charlie Brown tree because we had to trim it down so much to fit it into the space! It may not be traditional, but we just dragged a cedar down from the back forty! We are happy with it because it came off our place and we have hung all our special ornaments on it that we'd collected from all over the world. It's the first time in years we've had those ornaments out of their box in storage, or even put up a tree for that matter. Sheba has decided that under the Christmas tree is her new bed. The puppies have been really good about not bothering the ornaments, although Sheba did knock a couple off when she would stand up under there! No worries, I just moved those few up higher. I did do a lot of baking and candy making this year. That's also something I hadn't done much of for several years. I decided to write a song about it and have been posting daily phrases on facebook! I wrote the song as if Greg were writing it to me! It should be sung to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas". This is the posting from the last day, Christmas day. Greg's Christmas Song: On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love made for me, Lots of festive food, Joy's pecan pie, rustic apple pie, pastry for those pies, yummy apple butter, Peanut Butter Blossoms, pretzels with a kiss, CIN-NA-MON CAN-DY, A pound of chocolate fudge, Grandma's sugar cookies, some puppy chow, and a batch of party mix, you see! It sounds like a lot of treats, but, believe it or not, it isn't near as much as I used to make when the kids were at home. This will be our first year of having Christmas without a single one of our kids here. Since our first Christmas, that is. But even then I was already expecting our first baby! Since we won't have any kids to celebrate with this year, we went out and got a new puppy! He is a male Old English Sheepdog, and he is to be the mate to our two females. His name is "Signor Giacomo di Cavalli." We call him "Jock". He's adorable and the girls love him. Especially Milly. She is very motherly to him. Here is a video of Milly and Jock playing together. I want to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas. May your homes and hearts be filled with all the love and joy they can hold. God bless you all and those you love in the new year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wool Works

I have been skirting fleeces lately. I was happily surprised at how clean the first one was. I really was expecting a lot more VM (vegetable matter)and BM (poo). But there was very little BM...almost none (I guess cleaning the sheep's sleeping areas nearly on a daily basis really pays off in the end), and except for a few clumps of throw-away where the burrs had got matted in, there wasn't a lot of VM either. Even some of the matted spots came out fairly easily. I found it better to pull the wool apart and out of the burrs than to try to pull the burrs out of the wool. If that makes sense. I love the feel and smell of the wool. It amazes me how much less lanolin there is in the Icelandic wool than there is in the wool of other breeds.
You can see that Zinnia's locks are about 8 inches long. Her whole fleece, after skirting but before washing, fills a king-sized pillow case!

I am working on little Cookie's virgin fleece now. It is so soft, but has much more VM and BM than the five I had here had. Not huge amounts of BM but a lot of VM. I can only guess that she was being kept on hay for awhile before she was sent up to me. Her raw fleece looks like dredlocks! I love that crimp she has at the ends of her locks.

Even though she was just born in the spring, her locks are already 6 inches long.
Her fleece will fit in a much smaller pillow case, though!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Love Is In The Air!

It is breeding season for the sheep.Solomon has had quite a time of it! He has 5 ewes to take care of. The "love dance" is quite interesting to see! The most hysterical thing is when Solomon curls up his lip as if he has a big smile on his face! We have seen Solomon with Ursula already...she was the first, soon after she arrived on the farm. We have seen him following little Cookie around, too, but not sure if she is ready yet. She is so small, I just have a hard time imagining that she can already be bred...but I'm told she can.
Today Solomon seemed to be VERY interested in Cocoa. This will be her first time to be bred. But, she was having nothing to do with it yet! I tried to get a video of the big guy doing his lip curl...but he wouldn't do it. Of course, I saw him doing it later, out in the far pasture where I couldn't get a shot of him.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baby Layers, Hair Nests, and Hay Feeders.

The mail-order layer chicks we got while the kids were here from Germany are growing like weeds. They are now out in the hen house, in a big dog kennel that Greg modified for them. He has it mounted on top of the layer boxes. One of the wheaten-colored Marans keeps laying her eggs on top of it!

I have found the coolest little bird's nests around the horse corral. They are made out of horse hair! I can see Skipper's hair and Gabby's hair all mixed up in them. They were both just laying out there on the ground, in two different spots. I stuck them in a baggie and put them in the freezer for a couple weeks to kill any bugs. I'm going to add them to the dried-flower arrangements I made from the field flowers I have collected around the property.

Greg has been getting things ready for the horses' and sheep's winter maintenance. He added field fencing to the twisted wire horse fencing that was already there, out around the pasture behind the red barn so that the sheep will have some free-range grazing over winter (these sheep will forage under the snow for any bit of grass they can find). He has also pulled out the old wooden feeding troughs and fitted cattle panels to the stall walls, at an angle, to function as hay feeders. I think it is ingenious of him to come up with this system.

The old ones he took down were made of really nice, sturdy oak which he plans to build some furniure out of in the future.

Here is some he piled up in the horse barn for feeding to the equines.

Our little farm is really coming together.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Third Time's a Charm!

Well, we did it! Today Skipper and I accomplished "Join-Up"! It was not as beautiful and smooth as when Monty Roberts does it, but it was wonderful! Greg got some video of me "sending her away", but, unfortunately, he did not get any shots of the actual join-up and follow through. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Sad Day and a Happy Day

Yesterday morning we lost our sweet little badger-faced yearling ewe, Zinnia. She is the one on the right. She had always been a little Houdidni, and had even led the others astray a few times. She loved to get on the other side of the fence, but once there, she never would go off anywhere. She was just happy to be on the other side.
Greg had let the sheep out into the small paddock just before daylight, as he always does. Then he went out a little bit later to take a walk around with the puppies to see if he could see any trace of our three missing birds (more about this later). He came in a few minutes later and said, "I think Zinnia is dead." I ran out (in my pj's) to check her out, and sure enough, she was dead. It seems she had got her head between the fence rails, then got her horns caught, and in the struggle to get out, she got herself wedged into a tight spot and strangled herself. She was wedged in so tightly that Greg had to get a crow bar and break the boards to get her out. She was still warm, so he tried to revive her, but it was too late.
We were both so sad. She was such a pretty little thing. I had wondered several times, though, if we would have to do something with her if she kept getting out. I worried a coyote would get her, or she'd get out into the road and get hit by the one car that goes by here each day. The worst thing was her getting the others to follow. But Greg had fixed all the places she was getting out, and it had been a long time since she'd escaped. It never occured to me she'd strangle herself.
This is definately a "low" point in farm life.
But on the brighter side, today was a very good day. I finally was able to get back out into the round pen and work with Skipper again. She did so much better this time. She did her full five loops one way, turned and did 5 more in the other direction, turned again and did a few in the original direction. I slowed her down and got all the signals: licking and chewing, ear turned toward me, dropping of the head then attempt to come in closer to me.

The only thing we didn't accomplish was the actual "Join Up" and follow through. But that's will come. One thing that is a problem is the fact that I do not yet have sand in the round pen, and Skipper is a hog...all she wants to do is eat she loses her concentration on me. I guess she thinks she deserves a reward after being made to do all that running around in circles!

I do have to confess that today I used my new whip in order to get Skipper to be more compliant. I never once hit her with it, just showed it to her and used it as an extension of my arm. I am not as good at using the rope to keep her going as some I've seen. But I was a master with the whip! I will have Greg take some video of our work tomorrow.
After I finished with Skipper and she got a good brushing, I took the puppies, one at a time, into the round pen for a little training, too. Milly was first and she did okay, but she needs a lot of work yet. She is not very attentive. I hadn't worked with them for a few weeks as I was so busy with the kids here, and it was like she had forgotten everything she'd ever learned. She finally started following commands, once she realized there were yummy bits of steak involved! Today we started work on "fetch". She was happy to chase after the ball, but never would bring it back.
Sheba was next, and she was a champ! She sat watching While I was working with Milly and she seemed to have figured out just what she was supposed to do. I have never tossed a ball and had her fetch it before, but she did it the first try! She brought it back every time. A couple of times she dropped the ball before she got to me, but most times she broght it all the way back. She definately got the idea! I think she is going to be a great little herding dog.
A few days ago, one of our wheaten Marans went missing. Then, the day after, a guinea and a banty went missing. Well, yesterday, the guinea and the banty showed up, but still no Maran. So, today, Greg went up into the barn loft to look around, and guess who had made a nest! He called me up there, so I climbed the ladder to see. We shooed her off her nest, and that little stinker had a dozen lovely brown eggs under her! We will see if she goes back to the nest. If she does, we'll let her sit on them...but we only have a Banty Rooster, so we're not sure what's gonna come out...if anything does actually hatch out.

We are just so relieved that nothing has been eating our birds. We were sure some critter had found itself a Smorgasbord!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ursula and Cookie Arrive

Not only did the shearer come today, but he also brought with him two new additions to our flock: Ursula and her ewe lamb, Cookie. Poor girls, first they had to suffer the trauma of the trip to a new place, then they had to be sheared upon arrival! It was a bit of a rough day for these two. Cookie isn't quite sure what she is in for, since this is her first time. She has beautiful virgin wool. I just love her color.

Here are Cookie and her momma, freshly shorn, checking out their new digs.

Yes, Sir! Yes, Sir! Seven Bags Full!

Shearing day has finally arrived!
Getting ready for the shearer...I'm sporting my new Australian cowboy hat (early Christmas gift from Jessica). I get water for some very thirsty sheep (for after),
while Greg secures the door between the stalls

The girls are ready..."What's up, Mom?"

Zinnia: before, during, and after

Cocoa: before, during, and after

Zuma: before, during, and after

Daisy: before, during, and after

And, last but not least...Solomon: before, during, and after. The big guy had a lot of burrs in his woool, and he put up the biggest fight of anybody.

Here I am, putting the fresh fleeces into pillow cases.

Is Miss Daisy thinking about coming back in for more? Maybe she's looking for her wool coat! Skipper and Gabby want to know what's going on. There they are...the whole gang.

I must say, the whole experience was everything I'd hoped it would be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Around and Around and Around We Go

Greg and James (my SIL) worked very hard for the better part of a day putting up a temporary, make-shift round pen for me. It is not the round pen of my dreams, but it is exactly what I wanted until we can build something more permanant. I took Skipper into it and worked with her that very first day, as soon as the gate was on! I am trying to do something with her called "Join-up". It is a technique used by Monty Roberts, AKA "The Horse Whisperer". I have been studying his methods for some time now. The first try (first time for both of us) was not a total disaster, but it was obvious she was a bit confused as to what she was supposed to do. I was a little disappointed that it didn't just happen "like magic"...but he says not to expect much on your first try. So, I will be patient, and continue the process, over and over if need be, until I acheive my goal. She actually didn't do all that bad. She made five nice loops around the round pen. It all went kinda south when I tried to turn her and have her go in the other direction. That's when she got confused. But, we will figure it all out together.

I have read several people's accounts of their first-time Join Up experiences, and it seems Skipper and I actually did quite well. Several people said their horses wouldn't even move away from I guess five trips around the pen is a pretty good start!