Friday, March 29, 2013

Lambs are 'Marching' onward

The first lambs arrived just over 2 weeks ago. Now are more than half done, and I can't keep up with the count, but last I checked the score was 73 lambs on 52 ewes. Or something like that. It's been amazing to us how doubling the size of the flock somehow more than doubles the amount of work. But, like every other year, the sight of all those happy babies hopping and playing in the sunshine makes it all seem worth it.

When the sun finally shines that is.  Spring has been slow to arrive, and the cloudy cold days, seemingly continuous flurries, and furious north winds was hard on the newborns. Cramped for space this year, the new families were pushed out of the nursery in short order to make room for the even newer additions. A brief outbreak of scours was fortunately stopped with magic pink medicine and timely warming sun. Everybody is looking better now.

 The girls scouts came again this year for some fiber art fun (more on that in a later blog). They got to visit some of the first babies.  I was impressed - out of 7 girls, one had showed lambs in 4-H, and one had a mother who spins.  Still happy to do what we can to keep spreading the word about sheep and wool.

 Last Monday, I went out to take pictures for the blog, but it was a terrible day for lambs. But I did find these 4 in a row.

And a little wooly pinwheel. Or is it a shamrock?

The next day was better. The singles and their mothers were hanging out together in the sun.

And there are encouraging signs of spring. Once again, we are awakened by singing birds at dawn. And the chorus of hungry ewes at chore time are now joined by dozens of higher voices of the lambs. True music to a shepherds ears.

And meanwhile, seeds are sprouting. Firewood has been replaced by the table of green basking in the 24 hour faintly pink glow of the grow light. (In the sun room, of course)  The break in the weather broke dormancy of the gardener, and onion plants now reside in soil. As I type, the potatoes are placed in the adjoining rows.

So yes, it really turning out to be a good Friday, on Good Friday. Easter has long marked the beginning of spring in its celebration.

Hope you all have a good one too.

Happy Easter from all of us........ make that 75 lambs on 53 ewes.... at Ewe And Us.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Shearing day delight

As promised, a report on shearing day (s) 2013.

Well, so we really aren't done yet. The ewe lambs are still in full fleece, but with lambing beginning very soon, not for long. They get put down the list since they will lamb a little later.

 In full fleece, the girls filled the west half of the barn. And yes, it was time for shearing. As evidenced here, many of the covers were getting a bit too small.

I try to document things as they occur, and especially things like shearing day, since they only happen once a year. I got a couple of 'before' shots, and then got distracted with my duties as wool handler.

Don does the shearing. The bellies and tags are thrown into a separate pile at the beginning. Once sheared, I weigh and record the fleece, and throw out on a grated skirting table. I prefer to do out side up first, and pull off the really dirty edges, legs, and back of the neck - whatever was not protected by the cover. Character comments, staple, and other notes are put down, and the fleece is bagged tagged and  re-weighed for clean weight.  Uncovered fleeces are 'tanked' -  in this case meaning they are dumped into the lined 'tank' to be later bagged for commercial sale.

The experience of handling the still warm fleeces is always moving, especially as a spinner/wool enthusiast. Often, as recorded in past years blog report, its because of the warmth. This year, I sensed right away that there was something more. I noticed that after the few first fleeces that were uncovered, and thus 'tanked', and the first  lovely white warm clean fleece spread over the table. I judged. I took notes. And as each fleece passed through my hands and critique, it became my favorite. No, this one. Then this one. They are all different in minor ways - some dense with fine crimp, the next pencil locks with bold. One long and lustrous, the next incredibly soft. Like a mother of many children, in the end, I could name no favorite.

 After day 3 ( Admission of age - neither Don nor I were up to shearing all of them at once.) We cleaned off the shelves in the garage to make room for the new crop. (The last of the 2012 fleece was offered at bargain prices, and very little remains.)
 We loaded the truck with the bagged fleece for the trip to the garage. They didn't all fit.

We had noted that some very nice '12 fleeces got 'lost' on the shelves. This year, we tried a new system. The numbered fleece bags also have weight and a grade (my standards). They were they placed on the shelf according to their grade. Hopefully, I will be better able to locate them as they are called for according to use. I was pleased when Don kept running out of room for the 'A's' and A-'s.
 Meanwhile, back in the barn, the 'skirtings' pile was impressive. It always hurts to throw that much wool into the 'discard' pile, but the end product is well worth it. I will admit to my wool buyers that I found myself cheating just a little this year. Looking back at the fleeces as I list them for sale, I realize I didn't skirt as hard as I usually do. I just couldn't throw out all that wool that just needs a little more attention before processing. I will adjust price accordingly instead, and attribute it to being more sustainable.

After 'haircuts', the girls bask in the sunshine.  The colored ewes and a few other 'special' ones got covered right back up. They will probably go naked for a few weeks while their lambs are little - for safety - but no longer than necessary. Even Don is a believer in those covers, despite the frustration of keeping them on for months at a time.
 Then the commercial sale wool got bagged.

Yep, its a big bag.  Thats an 8 ft ladder.

 For those not experienced in the trade, this is how you get more than a hundred pounds of fluffy wool packed into the bag.

You stomp it in.

Dolly was trying to help.

She brought us a bottle of water.

We declined, and went to the house for our drinks.

Thus ends the storyboard of shearing day. There are already several spaces on the shelves where fleeces have been sold. And a few have future owners names on them. And I sometimes wonder if I'm a fool for selling the best instead of keeping it for myself.  But that's the business. And I don't mind using the  lesser stuff - because its still quite nice.

So now we've moved on to the days ahead.  The lambing barn is partially set up. Today Don is off to fetch some better hay for the new mothers. The produce has been good, but not enough for both mother and lamb to supplement the poor hay. At least we found some, so we are trying to ignore the pain of a 5 digit purchase.

Now I need to go finish some plans for the girl scout class that will be here next weekend. They will be making felt dyed flowers for a group arrangement. Sure to be fun, and I hear they are excited to come see the baby lambs too.

The seed order came yesterday too. Maybe a project for the predicted (and sort of hoped for) rainy weekend.

And, yes, there are still the ewe lambs to shear.

Its spring on the farm.