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!