Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Has Come

Farm life has been busy these past few days. The goats are just about done kidding. The sheep should start lambing any day now. We've spent the last 10 days shearing sheep and goats - 21 Ewes remain to be sheared and about the same number of Bucks. 120 ton of lime has been spread on the pastures and hay fields. A lot of time has been being spent on cleaning up our fence lines which were littered with debris from winter storms - tree limbs down, fence posts heaved and broken, wire needing tensioning. We're also trying to get fiber prepared for our Spring Fiber Show Schedule. We've taken a bunch of new pictures but have not been able to get them posted yet. Maybe this weekend ?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heard (Herd) Around the Water Cooler......Almost

We've had this solar water tank for about 3 years. It is really great. Uses passive solar to keep the water from freezing. How it works is the tank within a tank method. There is an inner tank that holds the water and an outer shell with a plexi-glass "window" on one side. In the winter, the tank's window gets oriented toward the sun, in our case south. The sun passively heats the inner tank via the plexi-glass window. In the summer, the tank is turned 180 degrees so that the window stays in the shade keeping the water cool.
The tank comes with a heavy black oblong floating lid to keep debris out and the heat in. The goats were not able to press hard enough on the lid supplied with the tank to get to the we cut this goat sized lid from a piece of foam we had around. During the last 3 years we've had to replace the foam lid as the Maremmas tend to think that it is great fun to "steal" the lid and rip it to shreds. This year the dogs are a bit older and wiser and would be embarrassed to be caught in the middle of such foolishness - NOT ! (If you look closely you can see distinctive teeth marks in the upper left hand curve of the blue foam lid. Dogs: you've been discovered and exposed! Ha! That'll teach 'ya!)

BTW - What do you suppose goats talk about around the water cooler ? We'll never know and maybe that's a good thing.

5, Count'em, 5 Days 'Til Spring

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sheep To Be Sheared

Yesterday we sorted through a bunch of our ewes. Now that kidding is winding down, its time to get ready for lambs. We have 22 bred Cormo and Cormo Cross ewes - we think. The Cormo Crosses are our Natural Colored Fine Wool sheep. So, starting next week, we'll be shearing some sheep as we prepare for lambing. We like to get the fleece sheared before the ewes lamb -- for one thing it allows the lambs to find a teat with ease and for another it keeps the fleece from getting contaminated from the birthing process. We also have the remainder of our goats to shear as well - yearling does and bucks, adult does and bucks. So in the next few weeks we need to harvest the fleece off of about 100 animals.
As we shear, we do a "rough skirt". That means we remove as much of the undesirable parts of the fleece as possible before putting the fleece into a bag. Undesirable parts include; any fleece with manure stuck to it ( these are called "tags" ), any fleece discolored by urine ( called "stain" ) , any parts with a lot of vegetable matter ( VM , the handspinners nightmare in fine wool ). We also separate the wool from the underside of the sheep's body - the "belly wool" - and bag that separately. This wool can be very different from the rest of the fleece. Sometimes it is shorter in length, sometimes the crimp is different and sometimes it is of a different "fineness". Most of our sheep are covered which keeps a large percentage of the fleece very clean and free from debris. This fleece is then carefully re-skirted, bagged and offered for sale. Some of our fleeces - the really special ones - are kept and entered into competition at some of the local fairs. There is nothing more beautiful than a pristinely clean, freshly sheared fleece.
This year, the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Growers Association, a local sheep breeder's association to which we belong, is having a Spring Fleece sale. It will be held on Saturday May 16 at the Elmendorf Inn in Red Hook, NY at 10:00AM. We'll be participating with some of these beautiful fleeces. See you there?

7 Days 'Til Spring

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kids Do The Most Amusing Things

Well, it has been a while since we've had time to sit still long enough to update this blog. A bunch of kids have been born - 34 to date, 8 within the last 36 hours. We've moved a bunch of the older kids and nannies outside to our leanto area. This area has access to the rear portion of the barn but also allows everyone to go outside if they choose. The kids have a large area to race around in and the nannies have a lot more room to stretch their legs as well. With our oldest kids being almost 4 weeks of age now, they have started doing all those things a goat must do to a goat. A real goat climbs on things ....

A real goat gets into things....... like this round bale feeder. This little girl is not stuck, she's just thinking that there's got to be something more here than this big bale of hay. Although you can not see the whole of the round bale, these bales are large - 5 foot diameter and 4 feet tall. They weigh about 900 lbs. We use a surrounding "round bale feeder" fence with large squares of fence left open so the goats can get to the hay without getting into the hay. Keeps the VM out of the fleece. It also makes for a much more efficient method of feeding and a lot less waste. They are made by a company called Premier One. Premier manufactures and sells a lot of small livestock equipment that really works. They have a flock of sheep themselves and test out all their products before offering them for sale. The result is that the products you purchase have been put though their paces by a tough panel of "test sheep". We've had good luck with these round bale feeders and would recommend them. We also use Premier electric net fence which we like as well. We have no financial interest in Premier. Just sharing the name of a company we think has the right idea about testing products first, and products that work.

8 Days 'Til Spring

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kids in a Row

A bunch of kids have been running around one side of the barn now for a week. Every once in a while they all get "pooped" at the same time and collapse into one giant "mass-o-kid". Usually this happens in a relatively cozy location away from the threat of being stepped on by a rushing mother coming to look for her kid. Oh yes, and there's usually a spot of sun involved in the selection.

18 Days 'Til Spring

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ducks in a Row - Almost

These are Muscovy Ducks. We got them from our friends Pen and Andy at Cobble Rock Ridge Farm. Muscovy ducks are the kind of duck people either really like - or not. They are very different from the average white duck in the neighborhood pond. For one thing, they do not quack. Vocalizations from these guys are more of a "hissing" or back of the throat noise. When they walk around the barnyard, their heads move back and forth from front to back extending and retracting their necks. But the thing that is really the most fun, is watching them fly - and they are expert fliers. No matter where they are - on the pond, grazing with the goats up on the hill ( And yes ! ducks do graze for young shoots of tender grass. They also "graze" for insects.) when the grain hits the feed trough the soaring Muscovy is to be seen gliding in for a perfect landing right next to the grain. They also have acute hearing capabilities.
This time of year, the ducks spend most of their time in a lean-to off of the main barn where we house some of the goats. There is a small wooden box, with hay as bedding, that they use as a "duck house" when they feel the need to be inside. Otherwise they are out and about, sometimes floating in the water trough that is gravity fed from our main pond. Even on the coldest day, those ducks take to water for their bird bath. They always seem to be a harbinger of Spring despite the cold. It seems that, around here anyway, everyday is a good day for ducks.

19 Days 'Til Spring.

Summer Sheep