Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'll be the Judge of That

I've just wrapped up my fourth year as a Spin-Off Judge for our regional alpaca organization's big yearly show. The TxOLAN (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico) Alpaca Spectacular will take place in Fort Worth at the Will Rogers Coliseum in two weeks, February 12-14. The winners we chose will be displayed with their ribbons during the actual show.

The Spin-Off gives breeders a chance to have their fleeces evaluated from a hand spinner's perspective. My friend Rita and I received 100 fiber samples from around the region. Our job was to rate every sample in several areas, and to spin a portion of each sample to see how the process and resulting yarn stacked up against the competition. As usual, we got to touch and spin some incredible fiber. When we go to the show in two weeks, we'll get to see the winners' pictures with their ribbons. I love to see the fiber matched up with the animal who grew it--as judges, we never have that information ahead of time. Terribly impartial, us.

If you have any interest in alpacas, I'd invite you to Ft. Worth for the show. You've never seen so much cuddly goodness in one place--every size and shape of alpaca you can imagine. You can speak to breeders, watch confirmation or halter shows, visit vendors with alpaca supplies or fiber products, and more. No joke - fun for the whole family.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Puppy Love

I'll say it flat out. I'm smitten. This lovely white dog is the answer to my prayers. He has been here only four and a half days, and so far, I can't find a flaw. He's great with people, he's kind to the sheep, he hasn't made any attempt to get out of his little paddock... will the other shoe drop? No sign of it so far.

Tonight, it's 25 degrees with a good breeze, but he has stationed himself on the highest point in the paddock (maybe 3 inches higher than anywhere else) and is taking his shift. Peering and sniffing into the darkness, he gives the neighborhood an occasional generalized woof-ing, on principle.

The sheep have retired to their hut to sleep or chew, out of the wind, in perfect peace.

I continue to try to wrap my mind around the hardwired instincts of this breed to carry out the duties of a powerful protector. I'm amazed. I wish I had done this for myself and for my flock years ago. But let's not worry about the past. The future looks like a million bucks.

Check out our big lug from earlier today:

This boy is death to coyotes and other varmints, but sure does love his momma! Judah, where have you been all my life?

Getting the Word Out

The new Allen Image hit mailboxes today, and almost immediately, I got a couple of calls and e-mails, inquiring about visiting the farm. It's a delight to be able to show people the wonders of the farm and all it offers: fuzzy chins to scratch, eggs to gather, fiber to fondle and dirt to work. These are the things that drew me out of the suburbs; what an incredible honor it is to get to stay and steward the land. Many thanks to Peggy Helmick-Richardson for making the article such a lovely invitation to come and see!

Had to show you the latest picture of Judah and his sheep. Today, with no coercion, the sheep and the guard dog have bedded down together in the open hut. This is the first time the sheep have not been locked up for the night since the coyotes attacked a month ago. What a relief. Every once in a while, we hear Judah's deep, serious bark - a warning to any would-be predators, that this area is off limits. This noble dog is worth his weight in gold.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lamb Update

Kim sent updated pictures of the new lambs the other day. With Judah's arrival, these shots got pushed to the back burner. But it's time to show you how our two new boys are growing!

Isaiah and Nathan will be weaned and ready to come to the farm in mid-April, and will be introduced to their new flock. These boys are Mordecai's half brothers, and Kim says they are really tall - she can't believe they are twins, which are usually much smaller than single lambs. That's great! She also has high hopes for their fleeces, because their sire has such a nice wool quality. Kim also reports that they are sweet, mellow boys who are pretty friendly. Bonus.

Here at the farm today Judah got a lot closer to the sheep. When the rain moved in, I encouraged the sheep to go into their hut and then got Judah to go in with them. Then I shut the gate. He was happy to lay down toward the front of the hut, while the sheep stood frozen, staring at him, from the back of the hut. I knew they'd have to relax sooner or later. Fortunately, it was sooner. Before too long, they were all lying down in hay. They've been there most of the day because of the heavy rain, had their dinners in there, and will stay there over night. The rain is forecast to quit around 10 AM. I'm sure everyone in the hut will be ready for a break by then.

Nobody around here is a fan of prolonged, heavy rain. Big sigh.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Working Farm

Everybody pulls his or her weight around here. Judah knows his job - be gorgeous, and defend his boundaries.

Most of that goes on at night, so his daytime is spent resting up.

The sheep grow fiber, and also supervise welding operations.

Chickens, in addition to laying tasty eggs, supervise post setting. They have a keen sense of plumb.

And then, they also volunteer to taste test Bennett's lunch. Selfless, I tell you. Selfless and hard working.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Judah is in the House

Actually, he's in the pasture. Our Livestock Guardian Dog, Judah, has come home. So far today, he has put the sheep in their place (and they are terrified of him), and he's caught a really good nap near the hay feeder where it's soft and shady. Off to a great start.

Shadrach is the leader of the fraidy-sheep pack, and he hasn't taken his eyes off of the big white dog. Tonight I get to figure out how to get everyone fed without anyone getting too upset. They have about a day and a half to buddy up, before the rain and cold hit again.

Judah is a really mellow and agreeable dog. He gave foster mom, Susie, a hug goodbye before he hopped in the back seat of the pickup and we headed home.

My new friend Larry was already digging post holes when Judah and I arrived. The fence project is off and running.

Tomorrow, fun with Quikcrete.

Monday, January 25, 2010


We've been approved! The Great Pyr foster mom has approved our application to adopt Mr. Sundance, and I hope to bring him home to the farm tomorrow morning. Still thinking about changing his name, though I haven't settled on what that will be. But the important thing is that our sheep will be safer, soon. And I'll have a new co-shepherd in the pasture 24/7.

And the fence project is moving along. Bennett marked the spots for the post holes to be dug, and I'm in contact with a guy with a tractor-powered auger. Things are moving. We need the weather to cooperate - it might rain, and will probably get kind of cold again towards the end of the week.

One step at a time. In a month or two, we'll look back on this big project and smile at the progress we're enjoying, and the improvements we've made. I think I'll start enjoying it now, in advance. Ahhhh.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cowgirls' Night Out

Had serious fun at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Friday night with Susie and a gaggle of Juniper Moon Farm "aunties." It's worth the drive, and it runs for a while yet - check it out:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Time Out

I celebrated the One Year Anniversary of the Jacob's Reward Farm CSA Launch with a trip across the metroplex yesterday. Our mentor and business coach, Susie Gibbs is in town, as usual, for the world famous Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Time for a meet-up! A bunch of us girls converged on Susie's mom's house in Fort Worth, to spend time together and to hit the big Show.

What a wonderful mini-break from farm duties, and a great recharge, hanging with local and far away Juniper Moon Farm groupies. Susie doesn't get to town that often, so it was a must-do chance to continue to pick her brain about building our CSA community and farm. Mary B. and I carpooled from the Dallas side and met up with Suzy, Anna, Patty, Nancy, Mary, and Susie.

Suzy had spent a couple of days dyeing yarn to bring down for Juniper Moon Farm. Gorgeous colors. Yes, three skeins came home with me. Ahem.

Mary B. snuggled with the Newfies while we all caught up
on the latest farm news.

Susie's mom lives within easy walking distance
from the Coliseum,
so off we went in the unusually springlike, sunny weather.

Comforting, expected sights and smells awaited.
For instance, cows. Lots of cows.

Kids register their cattle for judging.
They're laying months of blood, sweat and tears on the line.

Sleepy farmer boy.
Grooming elephant-sized cows is hard work.

Patty gets pig pics.

Cowboy accessories for sale.

The rodeo itself was a total blast. I took a bunch of video which I hope to share with you tomorrow. Susie, somehow found healthy food while the rest of us noshed on more traditional fare: super-long corn dogs, funnel cakes, peanuts, and beer. We enjoyed watching lots of roping and riding of all sorts. Cowboys and horses and ropes and cows and color. What an extravaganza and a feast for the eyes!

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the day, stepping around all kinds of poop that I didn't have to clean up. Dear heavens. What have I come to, that this is my criteria for a kick-butt, cut-loose, girls' day out?

Have a safe trip home, Susie and all, and we'll be in touch every day through the magic of the internet.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Visiting with the Parker Women's Club

The wonderful ladies of the Parker Women's Club invited me to come talk about the farm at their monthly meeting this morning. It was a real honor, because these ladies are my neighbors here in one of the coolest little towns in the metroplex. The PWC is a generous philanthropic group that raises money for our volunteer fire department and offers college scholarships to promising students. Within the PWC are sub groups: the Garden Club, Book Club, Bridge Club, Craft Club, and more. These are busy ladies. I had at seen several of these gals around at city functions over the past few years, so it was great to connect officially.

I brought my wheel, fiber tools, finished yarns and knitted items, and shared my love for sheep, alpacas, chickens and our country life in general. I explained about all the great fun we have with our CSA - the community we've built and the friendships we share. They were captivated.

I understand it was the best turnout for a meeting that they've ever had - something like 27 women sat in Madeleine's beautifully appointed home and beamed back at me as I shared. They asked really great questions, and you could see the excitement begin to grow in their minds and hearts. Several were knitters, or lapsed knitters, who wanted to get back in the game.

We shared a lovely lunch, and more conversation. They had tons of questions.

After lunch, a caravan traveled a short way down the road for a first-hand look at the farm.

The alpacas were a little standoffish because of the crowd, but the sheep were up for some socializing.

The weather was perfect for a stroll around the grounds with new friends.

Sandy was really excited to take home some eggs fresh out of the nest box.

I know I'll be hearing from some of the ladies in the near future. They've promised to come back with their spouses, kids and grandkids - and maybe for some knitting lessons!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Grateful Heart Swells to Bursting

Today, at our regular spinning group get-together, my friends presented me with more than enough money to pay the rescue organization's fees to adopt a livestock guardian dog. I was completely blown away. Tears, hugs, and lots of love. More investment into this farm that never has been mine, but belongs to an incredible community. Their support and encouragement, every day, every step, keeps the dream moving. In a breathtaking understatement, I say, "thank you." Thank you for your love and your trust.

So, what are you getting for your money? I managed to get a few seconds of video yesterday at the foster farm. Rescue mom, Susie, plays with my first choice for the Jacob's Reward Farm Sheep Guard, Sundance. It's quick, but I hope you enjoy it.

(If you're reading this on Facebook, you must click "View Original Post" to see the video.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Great Pyrs and Fence Posts

I met an avalanche of snowy white dogs today, as I visited the Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue foster mom, Susie. There were at least seven rescue Pyrs in her pasture with the goats, her own guard Pyrs, and her eclectic collection of pet dogs as well. Every one of them was as sweet as the day is long. They all, for the most part, get along with goats, cats, chickens, geese, cows, and each other. Very cool.

Most of them came up to greet us, but a couple stayed back in the treed pasture with their charges. One of those was a boy named Sundance. Sundance had chased a squirrel and was keeping it up in the tree where it belonged. He didn't come to greet us, but wagged his tail as we approached.
Once we were within arm's reach, he asked to be petted.
A lot.

And then he went down on his back
and begged for belly rubs.
A lot.

He parked at my feet and insisted on more scritches.
Must I say it? I'm in love.

In spite of his silliness with us, Susie says he is a ferocious protector of "his" flock, and will guard them with all he has.

The next step in the adoption process is the Home Visit. Susie will come out and help us determine if our place is dog-appropriate.

Which brings me to the second half of the day - my visit with friend Bennett, who will help us get the creek side of the sheep paddock tightened up.

I'm excited about the way we've decided to approach it - we'll push the fence toward the creek a couple of feet, gain some real estate, and stay out of the treeline. The nice thing about this is that we won't have to disturb the current fence until we're finished, and the sheep won't be disrupted in their routine. When the new fence is finished, we'll tear out the old one. That will be a happy day.

The sheep kept a good eye on Bennett as he staked and measured.

I think this will be a wonderful, strong, affordable defense against our predator issues. These improvements will also set us up to go ahead with the far north pasture when resources permit.

Thank you Susie and Bennett for helping the Farm become an even better place to be a happy sheep!

Department of Homeland Security

Just a quick note friends, to let you know our fencing project is getting under way tomorrow. Also, I'm going out to visit some rescued Great Pyrenees dogs who are guarding the goats of their foster mom's at the moment. I'll have photos when I get back. Time to git 'er done.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's a Boy! And Another Boy!

Our new babies were born today! Twin ram lambs were born to Gulf Coast Native ewe, Dotty, down in Bedias, Texas this morning. Our breeder friend, Kim, sent me pictures right away because she knows we were anxiously waiting to hear.

I'll be contacting the next two eligible shareholders for names for these two little imps, and I'll keep you updated on that process. I'll also be after Kim for pictures of the boys as they grow.

Pray for their safety as they mature, and for Kim's whole flock, of course. According to Kim, they'll be ready to come home around mid April, so as that time approaches I'll be planning a road trip. Wanna come?