Friday, December 31, 2010

Nurturing Young Talent

Young Julia called the farm the other day asking if she could drop by and take some pictures for a high school photography project she is working on.  She's interested in documenting food and its sources, since lots of folks stay largely disconnected from where their food and other consumer products come from.

Well, you know how much I love helping young artists, and you also know how photogenic our critters are, so I was anxious to show her around.

She came today with her sherpa-Dad and burned a lot of pixels meeting all the sheep, dogs, chickens and alpacas.  These critters are quite used to the camera, and did their best to pose prettily for Julia.

Roger naively thought he could pull out a granola bar and snack unnoticed.

Boaz insists on his close up. 

The boys love the camera.

Julia says she'll let me know how they turn out and send us a print of her favorite one.  Keep up the good work, my friend! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Juicy Workshops Coming in 2011

The Farm Team and I are still polishing up the Farm Calendar for 2011 but I wanted to tip our hand a bit about the things we have in mind.  The official, set-in-stone calendar will be out next week, but I'm rotten at keeping secrets. 

A few of the workshops and activities you can look forward to:
  • Weaving on a Triloom
  • Keeping Suburban Chickens
  • Spinning Wild and Woolly Art Yarns
  • Dyeing for Noro
  • Farm Camp (Ages 7-10) August 1-5
  • Gardening in Texas - Using Native Plants
 And your old favorites will return:
  • "Share the Harvest" Gift Market - October 15
  • Sheep Shearing
  • Shareholders' Christmas Tea - December 10
 Next week we'll have our exact dates nailed down as best we can.  We're still open to suggestions, if you have a great idea for a workshop or farm activity.

2011 - bring it on!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Made It Through the Night

I think Jethro has forgiven me for putting him through yesterday's suffering and indignity.  He was resting in the stall when I came out to feed this morning, but got up and joined the group when the grain started rattling in the pail.

He nosed around in the pellets, but in the end, just opted for some hay.

I'm happy he's up and eating - those are good signs.

Samson, however, has quickly figured out that Jethro is no longer top dog, and has started to push his weight around.  Enjoy it while you can, Sam, your day is coming.

We did get a good bit of rain yesterday; the creek is up, but not badly.  These showers are forecast to move on by early afternoon, and then the water will move happily downstream.

Ruthie stretches herself awake...

The dogs enjoyed their night - alternately romping in the rain and edging the sheep out of the hut.   Ted reports that early this morning, however, all the sheep and dogs had managed to arrange themselves congenially under the shelter.  Everybody is wet and muddy.

Obligatory chicken-with-mud-puddle-reflection picture.

I'll keep you updated on Jethro's recovery process.  So far, so good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The X-Man

Jethro's day started out differently than most days today.  Early this morning, Ted helped me squeeze all of him into a very large dog crate, which wasn't easy.  He not only planted his feet and resisted going in (which is totally normal), but once in, he wedged himself horizontally and nearly poked his feet through the side ventilation holes (which is bizarre, even for a sheep).  I wasn't entirely sure the crate would contain him.

But we tied the crate down in the bed of the pickup and headed up to Dr. Lane's office.  A strapping young vet tech helped us move him into the building.

Ted and I returned home, thinking the procedure might not be complete for several hours.  Surprisingly, the office called us almost as we walked in the door and said that Jethro was ready to come home.  Dr. Lane had made the decision to band him, rather than do surgery, and the procedure had not taken much time.  Though banding carries risk, he felt it was safer for Jethro than surgery.

So Gail rode back with me to Farmersville through the mist-turned-to-rain to pick him up.  Back home, Ted was there to help us get the much quieter x-ram out of the crate and into the stall.  He felt the need to get his horn stuck in the crate, so it actually took us a minute to get him out.  I'm not loving horns so much lately.

Walking shyly and a bit stiff-legged, Jethro went straight to the back corner and pouted.  Gail comforted him with a friendly head-scritch.

And Ted, with empathetic compassion, offered him a little get-well snack as he rested in the hay.

Dr. Lane says we need to watch him for a couple of days to make sure he doesn't go into shock or anything, but, assuming all goes well, he should be ready to go to his new home in a couple of weeks.  We may not see a dramatic change in behavior for a month or two.  So, please keep Mr. Jethro in your thoughts, as he recovers from his ordeal, and hopefully, changes his demeanor to the rest of the world.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Close Call

You know why sheep don't compete in obedience trials or take Mensa tests?  Because their ability to solve complex, abstract problems is completely lacking.  Even acting in their own best interest is, many times, above their pay grade.

Mr. Samson is one very lucky sheep.  Our pal Gail and I got home from a fun day running around town spending a little bit of our Christmas money and she decided on a fluke to hang around and help me with the evening feeding.  Halfway through the feeding of the south pasture gang, I noticed Samson, caught, but good, in the propped-up horse panel at the far end of the property.  Oh great.

I called Gail over (thank the Lord she had decided to stay and help!).  We distracted the other sheep with their dinner and shut them up in the pen.  Then we were  able to turn our attention to Samson who was getting a little frantic about his situation.  As we got closer we noticed blood on the pipes of the panel and realized that he had repeatedly pinched the tips of his ears between his horns and the pipe until they bled.  Poor baby!

It was like working a Chinese puzzle trying to figure out an angle that we could turn his head and tilt his horns to free him from the panel.  The light was fading, and I didn't want to have to resort to cutting the pipe.  Finally, we happened on the perfect twist of the neck and head, and he backed his horns out quickly from the trap.

He set out in a brisk trot to rejoin the other sheep, and I heaved a heavy sigh of relief.  This is the kind of thing that proves fatal if the weather is hot and if the sheep stays caught for a long time.

Once again, Providence had smiled on us.

A happy aside: I got my hands on Samson's fleece while he was pinned, and it's very nice.  Yummy, in fact.

And as a reminder, Jethro loses his sports package tomorrow.  I hope we have a contrite, subdued wether to deliver to our new friend Missy, in exchange for her Shetland ewe Phoebe, next week.  Of course, you'll get all the play-by-play right here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dreaming of a Wet Christmas

Ten degrees cooler and we'd have had a nice dusting of snow on this Christmas Eve.  As it is, we'll just get a little damp.  But dampness doesn't take anything away from the joy and peace of this special day.  In fact, the gentle mist goes a long way to quiet the jangling world.  Of course, chores go on every day regardless of any special significance.  They slow the pace and keep my feet on the ground.  Even if it means working in the drizzle, I need this menial routine.

The light rain hardly shows up on the animals' radar.  Breakfast is here, and that's all that matters.

Chickens have two speeds: busy, and asleep.  The sun's up, so they're busy.

The guineas' job is just, well, to look weird and make a lot of noise.  Keep up the good work, Missy.

Got a Christmas kiss for Boaz?  Mwuaaah!

Now, a wool coat is the perfect thing to wear on a cold, damp morning.  Don't be fooled by those serious expressions - these sheep are getting their Christmas party groove on.

Titus is putting on his platform shoes.  Makes him the second-shortest sheep in the field.

Another entry in the Height War, Ezra plays King of the Cinder Block.

And Ruth dozes, overcome with Christmas Peace, and humming Silent Night in her sweet imagination.

Silent night holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Savior, is born,
Christ the Savior, is born. 

Silent night holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Merry Christmas, friends!  
All our love from the farm -
See you Monday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Shawl Finds a Home

Happy Christmas gifting today - our alpaca shawl winner, who wishes to remain anonymous, came by the farm this morning to pick up her beautiful prize.  Many thanks to Amy M who donated the fleece, to Edee and Joyce who spun and knitted it, and to all our generous donors who gave to World Vision to buy four sheep herds.  (I'll be passing out JRF water bottles soon...)

I'm just picturing in my mind, the look on the faces of the families who will receive these sweet sheep... imagining the kids rushing to snuggle into the warm wool of their new ewes and giggling at the sound of the gentle baaaa-ing.  Think about the deep relief and peace of mind of the mom and dad, who finally have a way to make ends meet.  Wouldn't you just give anything to be there?

Giving is a gift to the giver.  Receive it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Blew the Top Off the Thermometer

Oh.  My.  Adding up the donations that have come in for our World Vision "Sheep Flock" fund, I find that we are a medium-sized rock throw from enough for FOUR Flocks.  FOUR.  That's 20 sheep.

You guys rock with Christmas Spirit.

I was hoping the website where I got our progress thermometer had one with the top blown off and all the mercury spewing everywhere.  Because that's what you did.

And because our prize winners gave without wanting to brag or boast, I'll be awarding those prizes quietly, on the low down.  Thank you, thank you, thank you...

God rest you merry, gentle-people.   Let nothing you dismay.  A deeply fulfilling Christmas to you all.

ETA: The medium-sized rock has been thrown, and we have officially reached the FOUR SHEEP TOTAL.  Just think of the joy you've spread...  getting weepy...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sheepish Reunion

Remember sweet Courtney who sold us Phineas (formerly "Puzzle") back in the spring?  I had promised her a second payment for him, contingent on how his fleece grew out, since he was slick sheared when we got him.  We are all about fiber, after all.

We waited six months, and decided that he is indeed growing a fine wool fleece with tons of tiny crimp, and so the second payment was in order.

Courtney is on Christmas break from college, so she came out to get her check and visit with her old pal.  I was delighted to show her how content Phineas is in our flock, and how his fiber is looking.

He was a good boy, and showed off his woolly coat -- Courtney was very impressed with how he had grown, and how well he got along with the other sheep.  We talked a lot about sheep.  I was glad to hear from her that even though she's not pursuing agricultural subjects in college, she still loves sheep and hopes to raise them again sometime in the future.

Come back and see us again, Courtney...  Next we'll get you hooked on spinning.

Guard Dog Shenanigans

It's never all work and no play in the sheep paddock.  Case in point:

It's good to take regular little holidays from the daily grind.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas from the LRB

Lemon curd and sour cream.  Write it down and remember it.  Laurie brought some to go on pear slices for our Third Saturday spinning day, and it was a party on a plate.  Whoa.

Old friends and new friends, first-time visitors, and treats.  The LRB was stuffed today with Christmas goodness. 

Dina and Vicky swapped funny stories...

 ...while Dina cranked out darling "soap socks" for Christmas gifts.

We got a visit from Monique and Jeff -- interested primarily in the pasture raised eggs, they left enamored with our fuzzy alpaca's faces.

So good to see Brenda again, and Marlene for the first time in a long time.

My friend Elizabeth, visiting from Austin, got the full LRB treatment,  and decided she likes our brand of fiber festivities.

Folks came and went today, and I missed capturing Leslie and MaryTutu on film.  Mary brought her homemade soaps and we all loaded up like there was no tomorrow--mint, patchouli, frankincense, coffee, lavender, hyacinth... we're going to be squeaky clean in 2011, and smell good getting there.

Thanks, everyone for a sweet 2010 in the LRB - see you next year for our Third Saturday on January 15! 

Our Sheep Fundraiser through World Vision is winding down.  I'm waiting on a couple more checks before I announce the final total.  I know we've hit the goal because a couple of people offered to make sure we did.  Once I know all the money is here, I'll announce the winner of the lovely alpaca shawl--just in time for Christmas!!

Around the Water Cooler

These young Ameraucanas are on the bottom rung of the pecking order, and apparently, the big girls prevent them from drinking out of the waterer in the coop. 

So every morning when I let them out, they dash to the bathtub water trough to take their turns at the very special one-hole chicken waterer.

Here they can drink in peace and discuss the issues and concerns that occupy their little chicken selves.  Chicken society is tough.  Kind of like Junior High.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Time for the Big Snip

I've officially reached my limit.  Jethro and Samson must go under the knife.

Samson took a blow to the base of the horn this morning.  No worse for the wear, thankfully.

At shearing, we realized that these two Jacob boys had not been neutered effectively, and were in possession of way too much manliness.  Their massive horns should have been my tip off, but we see what we want to see sometimes, don't we?

I've talked about how their behavior is just a little too rowdy to make them fun (or safe) to handle easily.  I've ignored the problem for months now, but we've come to a fork in the road and it's time to act.

Telltale signs on instigator Jethro's head.  Bad boy.

By Providence, there may be a happy future for the boys.  Just this week, I got a call from a wonderful gal in Denton, Missy, who is looking for a companion for her old Jacob wether.  And though Jethro isn't suitable in his current condition, with a little surgery, he could turn out to be the answer to Missy's need.  If Dr. Lane can remove the source of his attitude, we could have a nice sheep on our hands with a lot of life to live.  And while we're taking care of Jethro, we might as well see to Samson as well.  Samson has the finer fleece of the two, and this could improve his softness even more.  It will certainly improve his disposition.

Miss Phoebe in full fleece.  Yum.

And here's the really sweet part - Missy is going to trade a lovely Shetland ewe named Phoebe for our Jethro.  Won't that be fun?  Phoebe (which is a Biblical name!) will probably live with the remaining Jacobs because that's where we have room in the pasture.  It will be interesting to see how all the personalities in this transaction work out. 

Pray for peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shameless Momma Brag

Just had to share a photo of my Emma on her friend's pony.  She's been riding for almost five years, and has jumped on large horses, but her friend's pony has a lot of gumption.  Here, they're going over the tallest height Emma has ever jumped.  She's clearly way too tall for this horse, but she's having fun anyway.

Contrast this with the photo from her first horse show here.

Thanks for indulging me -- I think my kid's amazing...

Big Weekend Coming to the LRB!

This is it - the weekend we add up all the donations to the World Vision Sheep fund, and award the gorgeous alpaca shawl!  It really looks like we're going to meet our goal - YES!

Thanks to everyone who ponied up for sheep.  You've made some people's lives better - people you don't even know.  That's the Christmas Spirit if I ever saw it.  Good on you.

We'll also spin and have a fun time on Saturday, here a week before Christmas.  If you can take some time from your holiday rush, we'd love to have you!  Finish up those handmade gifts, or start a relaxing project just for you.  It'll be great...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mukluk Weather

Oooooh - cold and dry.  My favorite.  These are the days I pull out my inherited Alaskan mukluks and go about the animal chores with toasty feet and a song in my heart.  Texas hasn't had a winter that was any match for these wonderful boots.  And after this current warm spell passes, my trusty mukluks and I will hit the trail again. 

Bring it, Frosty.