Thursday, September 27, 2007

Happy and Sad

In the course of raising livestock (cows, rabbits, sheep, goats) there are times you have deaths or cull the animals for your table or just to better your flock---which is a very sad thing for me I find :-(
When we do though---the skins are sent off to be tanned since they are such a useful part of the animal and we don't like to waste anything more than we have to.
Today, I received my sheep pelts back for this year.
They came out BEAUTIFULLY.
After the fact that this years fiber didn't come out so well, and all the other things out of our control (think rain here) I wondered if I would be disappointed---but I am not :-D
Bucks County did an excellent job on them and they even did well on two that my butcher left alot of fat and junk on (I worried about those). I know that things can happen---but I have heard much more good about Bucks County than bad and they have really shown the quality of work they do. We are very pleased.
Take a look at the pelts we won't be keeping here ---the colors are gorgeous-- and they are for sale if your interested! :-)


I have " re opened" anonymous comments for those of you who would like to comment but didn't want to join blogger.
Previously I had a problem with a person or two commenting and then filling it with advertising which is why I closed it down---nothing personal to most of you anonymous commentators.

So please---comment since I love to hear what you think ;-)

War AGAIN?!!

BREAKING: Lieberman-Kyl’s Iran amendment passes.

By a vote of 76-22, the Senate passed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which threatens to “combat, contain and [stop]” Iran via “military instruments.” Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) called the amendment “Cheney’s fondest pipe dream” and said it could “read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action.”

Want to know more?

Read who voted for and against with links to the various phrases taken out Here

and basically the same thing but a bit different Here

Contact your Senators and definitely your Congressperson.
Congress hasn't voted yet----we still have a chance to stop this madness!!
Don't forget to post it to your blogs or pass it on to your friends----this was NOT on CNN today. WHY??
Don't let them slip this through on the sly like they have done other things.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Crowd control or efficient means of torture?

Here's a really interesting article you HAVE to read. Don't skip it----even if your in a hurry.
This is very interesting and a bit scary. Considering the government as it has conducted business since 9-11 , you have to wonder about this new latest and greatest "thing".

Also notice the comment in the article by the US---"only for use by the US and it's allies---we're not selling it to countries with human rights abuses."
O.k---what if our ally is no longer our ally 20 years from now?? Then they have this "thing" too.

Do we never ever learn from history???

Another reason to save rare breed livestock--and a little bit more

As I was re reading the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) newsletter (sept/oct 2007) that I recently received, I noticed an article that I must have missed the first time through. It's a small article and titled "Skimmed Milk Cows" and is about some cows being bred in New Zealand that produce skim milk versus "regular" milk. Hmm...
After I read that decided I wanted to know more about this subject. So with just a small bit of searching I found a good expanded article here.

Well, this doesn't look good at all does it? Oh, I am not talking from the perspective of "tampering" with animals to produce specialty products (the white bread syndrome as I always think of it) but two other things that concern me.
One, that I had not thought of, is out of the article in the ALBC.
The author (Mwai Okeyo of the International Livestock Research Institute) says this:
This debate (one breeding specialty cattle) emphasizes the importance of the very old principle: that is the need to set realistic breeding objectives, depending on the production systems and the target market and consumers. Breeding objectives for low-input, poverty reduction systems should there-fore differ from those meant for high input systems and more affluent consumers.
In many developing countries, daily protein intake per person, especially of animal origin, is too low. For such consumers, high milk-fat content and intake is not a negative concern. Good quality water is often not available for the people and their animals, so a cow that converts water into watery milk is not a desirable goal. Yet that is what the multinational dairy cattle genetics companies are aggressively promoting. In such places it would be more desirable to have animals that can produce less milk with more fat and protein form poorer quality forage and less water. Such animals do exist but which donor/investor wants to put resources in such animal today (added by me: when everyone "with money" really wants skimmed/low fat products)?
At the same time, the type of consumers who do not desire butterfat in their milk can afford the additional higher prices that come with skimmed milk. Ironically, it is not just milk fat that is bad for health, but a combination of diet, exercise and social habits. Smoking may be far worse than milk fat, but no sensible tobacco breeders aims to reduce the nicotine content of the tobacco leaves!
As animal geneticists and breeders, we still have huge and real gaps to fill despite great successes in many areas. I would rather we concentrated our genetic improvement efforts to areas where we can really make meaningful changes to many lives, rather than to those that are targeted at the special few.

The author then goes on to talk about the World Food Programs, "who find it cheap and convenient" to ship/airlift maize-beans mixes grown in the USA to famine stricken part of Africa while other parts of the same country have fresh produce (potatoes, fruits etc) rotting for lack of an infrastructure to process, package and ship these products hundreds of miles only. If these world food programs and world bank etc would help develop these infrastructure how much better it could and would be for so many people. Many people could and would then also make a decent living while they shipped food to places that had less and needed it more.

My last comment on this issue is from the science article listed above ( placed here for convenience). In this article they comment that the gene that allows the cow to produce only 1% butterfat versus 3-4 percent is a dominant trait. Now that is a scary thought since when these large companies begin making money with this it won't take long for a dominant gene such as that to spread very far and wide until most of the production cows would be this way. Not to sound like a pessimist---but that is exactly the type of thing that has occurred over and over again. Just one more reason to raise a "rare" breed of farm animal to save those recessive traits that we may find ourselves without in some future generation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Just a quick picture

Here is a picture of our winning ribbons from the Tennessee State Fair along with the Best in Show Ram fleece rosette ribbon and the pewter plate that we received for Best in Show Fleece.
They're nice---but the money we won will be even better :-D

Have a great day!

Getting Sick

When you have livestock it's a guaranteed that eventually one of them will get sick.
Animals are never easy when they do get sick since you can't ask them what's going on such as: did you eat anything strange? Where does it hurt exactly? Does it also bother you to (fill in the blank)? When did you notice the symptoms starting?
So when it happens you have to take the visible symptoms and do huge searches to find exactly what you think may be the cause of the problem. This however is not always an easy thing because:
1) Most vets have no clue (or don't really care?) about sheep and/or goats. So asking the vet is like wasting your precious time (and money) sometimes. Now that is not to say they don't sometimes come up with something good but....a stopped clock is correct twice a day.
2) Many, many, many (seems like thousands) of sheep and goat diseases all have the same symptoms. Very annoying and confusing to say the least to try and find out what is exactly the problem. That's where the talking sheep could really help you out.
3) Most sheep and goat books out there are very very basic and really don't address the various treatments of sheep nor the more "in depth" causes of the disease. I don't mean cause as in bacteria or virus but is it related to mineral problems or well....lots of other small things that can help avoid the problem to start with. Also by treatment I don't mean "call your vet" as many of them say I mean things like this: give (blank) intramuscularly, not subcute at the dosage of blah blah ml's per 100 pounds of body weight for blank number of times per day for 4 days. Or something like that. THAT is extremely helpful. Many times I tell my vet what I need to treat my animals. I have a hard vet though and have to make my case. Sometimes I don't get the drugs I want which can be annoying but I consider myself somewhat lucky that they will generally give me what I want. I do know some people whose vets will give them anything and others whose vets won't give them even something so simple as a prescription bottle of minerals so.....
And lastly
4) Sheep die fast. You don't have much time by the time you see major symptoms to figure out your sheep is sick. Some people say sheep die at a drop of a hat and they are too hard to raise. I don't find that to be true but I also believe that it goes along with your style of management of your sheep. Sheep are prey animals so their main goal is to hide their problems to see if they get better. If they don't hide their sickness then the big bad (wolf, bear, coyote, fox, wolverine, badger, large prey bird etc) will swoop in and eat them. So paying very very close attention to your sheep will make a huge difference in how much time you have to treat your animal and how far along the problem gets to progress before treatment starts. If you only visit your sheep once a week or barely glance over them for 15 minutes a day---one could be very sick before anyone knew about it. "Eye of the shepherd" some of the people I know call this: eye your sheep every day, your "eye" knows what is normal---so go with your gut. Also,sometimes the problem is as simple as we just didn't know a symptom was a symptom----until we look back later and go "ah hah" THAT was a symptom.
There have been points especially with lambs and new animals, that they are very sick before we figure it out. Animals that have been on our farm a long time are much easier to figure out and diagnose since you "know" their "normal" reactions to things.

So my point of this article?
One of my best sheep is very sick. We did think we would loose her for sure. Now? maybe she will live.
What's wrong? Absolutely no clue. We are treating for a number of things so every few hours she gets 4 shots, one of antibiotic (in case its a bacterial disease), one of vitamin C (in case it's a poisoning), one of Thiamine (since it seems as if its a b1 deficiency) and one of Vitamin B complex (to keep her rumen working correctly since she is not eating or drinking yet and to help with micro nutrient problems) She also gets some probios paste for her stomach and 120 cc of water every hour. She is alert but not moving around much yet. We will see.
Did we see symptoms---yes but it was one of those "ah hah" didn't know THAT was a symptom. Also---she was very good about hiding it.

So my point of this? Just remember when you raise livestock that yes, there will be times when they are sick. Hopefully they don't die---and that is what we are working towards in our case----but sometimes even the healthiest best cared for animal does some how get sick. It's the nature of the beast.

A few good books I would like to mention:
The Veterinary book for Sheep Farmers----British publication but has actual Vet treatments and helps with diagnosis.
Also both of Laura Lawson's books Lamb problems
and Managing your ewe

"Cultivating" friends who have raised sheep longer than you also helps :-) since they can become indispensable in helping to decide what to do.

Have a great day all

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fair Trade I never considered

Always before when the idea of fair trade would come up, thoughts of the poor hardworking South Americans or Africans slaving away to produce something would pop into my head. The idea that they would work so hard only to have more connected and educated land owners or middle men get all the profit was, and still is, appalling.
This weekend though, I was reading a magazine I like very much (there aren't many I don't like!) that is published in Britain. They have a new campaign going that is called Free Trade for British Farmers. Now why would they need free trade I thought as it caught my attention? Aren't they similar to us in that they get medical (better access than we do), good wages, paid vacation etc? Well yes. However this article and campaign is specifically addressing British Farmers that produce....drum roll please......milk!?!?

Ah hah! Now that you know the product it is easier to understand why they might need a bit more "fair trade". After reading the article and checking out the web site I thought that it was such a good idea that they should start it here in the U.S.
I know we have the "drink real/raw milk campaign" but what about a plain old "give a fair dollar to a small local farmer so they don't have to sell their milk to the large companies" campaign? Even if it's not raw and just plain ole grass fed and grown but maybe homogenized milk. Maybe not even certified organic---but maybe it is they just can't afford to pay the government the "blackmail price" of getting certified.
In Britain they are losing so many dairy farmers that they may have to import milk soon at this rate. GASP. Can you imagine importing our milk from overseas? China? Taiwan? It could happen here too though since a small local farmer who milks under 30 cows is as likely to fail because not only does the government over regulates how milk can and will be sold but most people don't want to spend 8 dollars a gallon to purchase it. Oh they say they will when it comes to the question of "would you buy it if.......fill in the blank with some humane objective." However---most won't. Of course maybe they are like me and hesitant to spend it in the grocery store because I know the big companies got government subsidies and the grocery store is taking a pretty large profit their selves. The farmer is getting barely a pittance of that price if I pay it. I would however pay a local guy that amount of money for his milk, especially if I could see his farm and pick it up fresh (hear the sound of fresh "cracking open"). Just try and find a farm to do that on though! The shrinking amount of small local dairy farms goes back to the article I send you too. The U.S is losing it's small farmers at an alarming rate----and we and our children are going to pay for it in the long run. (so sad--sigh)

Another point brought up in one of the other articles I read is about animal welfare. If we end up purchasing from overseas how do you know that the animals were treated well. Oh wait! We don't care about that either or else we would be raising our own meat or buying from a local grass fed producer not a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) that sells to the large grocery chains, that gets government subsidies, that pollutes water and land and charges us a high dollar to sell to us.
So I guess in the end "fair trade" is just for some things like coffee and tea and as long as we get our every day staples for cheap cheap cheap the world is working correctly.

*By the way, when you check out the first link titled Fair Trade for British Farmers, click on the beef/lamb/dairy links at the bottom of the article for some other interesting "unfair" facts about these products.

Friday, September 21, 2007

something a bit off the wall

I know---you are wondering why I am posting about a cup and saucer on a farming blog. Well...I am an avid fan of the 50's. Almost everything: toasters, dishes, furniture, colors etc. I have many fond memories of my grandparents and of their homes. Since they were not very wealthy and very practical their homes were decorated in the 50's early 60's style until they died. So for many years I have tried to acquire things that remind me of them --such as an old working phone that is exactly as the one my grandmother and I used to pretend calling each other on when I would visit. It even has the same ring and since it is corded, my kids can't take off with it :-D

Sometimes this "freakish" desire to collect gets a bit whack though---and I end up with too many of some items, so that I am unable to use or find adequate storage for them. Today---as I looked at my room and decided that some of the "over flow" needed to go out of it---I found 8 of these little jewels in a box. Unfortunately though, I forgot I had these little guys and though I would like to keep them, I am of at least a certain amount of "sound mind" to realize that I am not using or displaying them so maybe they can go and GASP---I will live :-D

So onto ebay they went here. Hopefully they will sell since if they don't I will have to find some spot in the very very limited closet space I have. See...we don't have an attic, or a basement. So we are functionally out of sorts when it come to storing xmas items, collectibles not currently on display or out of season clothing. Our garage doth floweth over in our demand that it help us out.

However---as I look at them again on my table and in the picture I do realize just how retro and cute they are with their very unusual feet. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad if they didn't sell........

By the way if you want to see some neat retro "stuff" check out the man that designed my cute little cups (made by Salem China in the pattern "daybreak"). The man is Victor Schreckengost and he designed not only very unique for the times dinner ware for Salem but also: bikes for sears, the ubiquitous lawn chair we are all so familiar with , and those very very stylin' and cute pedal cars and planes for murray.
Didn't know you knew the man's work so well did you?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making it look good

One of the things we liked most about our house when we bought it was the fact that one of the longest sides of the house faced south. All the better to help heat it in the winter time we thought. It is so nice in fact that we had to reduce some of the glass to reduce the amount of heat that came in during the winter---another "story" altogether that I will blog about later. This story is suppose to be about plants and landscaping not low E glass and windows.

The gentlemen that originally owned the house before us was quite the "scavenger". He did not believe in beauty so much as saving a buck. That could mean anything from using something to build with that just didn't quite match the rest of the building OR even, as we have found, some slightly dangerous "jury rigged" things.
So, somewhere along the span of his ownership of this house he built hideous brick planters along the southern side. Of course these were one of the first things to go since they were so ugly and just filled with a bunch of weedy plants. They also stuck out onto the patio by quite a bit (I think so they would catch rain). After our removal of them, and the reduction of their footprint, we filled the remaining sections with medium size river rock. Why rocks and not some good looking plant? Because we have a two foot over hang and rarely does water get near that area of the footing. So it stays fairly dry---really dry. Placing plants there is a kind of hit or miss situation in regards to water---a few windy storms will throw water against it but overall it is pretty close to the Sahara. Why bother I thought---besides after living in Texas I am all for a more xeriscape style of planting. Less water, less grass.
After living with and looking at this for a few years however, I decided it was...well..a bit boring. So after mulling my options (for quite a while since that is my best skill :-D ) I purchased two agapanthus plants to see how they would do. I figured that even though my "philosophy" is to place only plants that can make it on their own, I wouldn't mind watering the agapanthus once in a while since they are so pretty. They are actually one of my favorite flowers and though we usually get enough water for them (remember it's a drought this year) they need a sheltered spot since I am at the very tippy edge of their hardiness zone.
There is one variety that grows a bit more North than I am, but most need it a bit warmer. I thought that since I was at the very edge---they would do great planted against this southern wall that stays so warm, warm enough that it once grew a huge fig tree that was very prodigious. So much so, that it grew into the septic and had to be removed the year before we bought the place (to bad---we love figs).
As you can tell by the picture on the upper left hand though, I was wrong about the agapanthus doing well on the wall. Yes, I did water them but the heat radiating off the rocks and wall got them. Maybe they would have been fine in the winter but with many many record setting days over 100---they cooked.
Too bad since the flowers were very attractive when I first planted them.
So, after looking through many many catalogs without success, one day I rounded the corner of my house and there in almost the same growing situation were my red yuccas. Ah hah! That plant will for sure be successful I thought, and though a more "traditional" flower might have been a bit more to my liking, the hesperaloe (or Red Yucca as it is also known) should do really well there.
Now, I am not a big yucca fan-- but I do like red yucca. It is much more sedate (tame?) and has beautiful striking tall strands of pink flowers. Everyone comments on them when they bloom--even men. (I believe I have posted pics of them previously on my blog) They have not only done well on the rocks but have thrived so that this year when they bloomed and the pods dried I saved some of the seeds and planted them. They quickly sprouted and have done very well for me with barely effort on my part. About the most I did was give them a bit of water and make sure the seed made contact with the soil.
So next year, after these guys grow up a bit, I will plant them in places of honor along the southern wall of my house. Not only should they be able to take the heat but maybe I won't even have to water them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How do you know?

Last night a friend who recently bought eggs from us called. Her question? Are they suppose to be orange? Or did she leave them out too long on the counter and that's why they are not yellow?
My response: Yes, they are suppose to be orange.
Notice in the picture above that two of the eggs are darker than the one towards the bottom. The bottom egg is store bought. You may also notice that the egg on the upper left"softer" around the edges. The picture is not the best in regards to clarity or color so you may not be able to see it. However a very very fresh egg will be "tight" and the yolk will sit "high"---not slouchy looking. Our slouchy egg is one that has been in the fridge for about a month now and the other egg was laid yesterday.
Since we began raising chickens so long ago we have found that most people do not know what a farm fresh egg is suppose to look like or why it is that way. Because of this, I thought maybe I should post a few bits of information about eggs on my blog--more information than the two egg cookbooks I recommended in another post anyways.

So here goes:

Eggs get their orange color from the grasses and bugs they eat. The actual pigment is called xanthophylls. Especially in the early spring and summer when grasses are at their best and bugs most plentiful a hens egg yolk will be a bright bright orange color. If you are buying pseudo "free range"eggs their yolks probably won't be the super orange of a true free range egg. Now their are natural additives (marigold flower petals for one) that can be fed to the hen to brighten their egg yolk but so far I still have not seen any from the store/large companies that are as bright as a true free range egg.

Color ,as I mentioned above, is effected by what the hen eats and here is something interesting I found on line about hens, their food and how it effects the color of the yolk:

medium yellow yolks are usually from chickens fed corn/alfalfa meal
light yellow yolks are usually a sign of barley or wheat fed hens
white or almost colorless yolks can be a sign of being fed white corn.

Also---not only are color additives against the law but most people prefer light yellow/orange yolks. To that I can attest as we have had a number of people say "thanks---but no thanks" to our eggs because the color grosses them out.

Another thing you may not have been aware of is that I would be breaking the law by selling my eggs as "free range" though my chickens happily ERUPT from their house when I open the door in the morning and range almost our entire 6.5 acres all day. I would have to document and provide data and fill out forms to be able to legally call my hens free range--more work and more government intrusion than I need. Besides we sell local---the buyers can see with their own eyes our chickens ranging our property. As a matter of fact in the evening they will "range" under foot as they wait for their evening treat of some scratch grains.

Free range, like all other organic/sustainable labeling has been "sabotaged" by the USDA because of this regulation---which wouldn't be bad except they do NOT do on site inspections. They just take the producers word for it. Basically what they consider free range is this: A producer must demonstrate to the agency that the poultry has been allowed "access to the outside". This can be nothing more than a hole in the wall opened for an hour during the day. Chickens are well...chickens (just like we used to call each other as children) and they do not like the unknown-. So they will not venture into a place they have never been accustomed to. It can take up to few months for our new chickens--depending on breed-- to learn they can go farther than about 400 feet away from the area they are confined at night. That is with us opening big doors and feeding them outside to encourage their natural foraging. Every new batch of chickens has to be taught this especially if you don't have older birds for them to see that "it's o.k".
So --don't be tricked into paying more at the store for the fancy boxed "cage free" or "free range" eggs.

The last thing I wanted to mention was that The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recently co partnered a "study" with a rare turkey breeder named Bill Yockey, Slow Food USA and The French Culinary Institute to study the best uses for turkey eggs. According to the article (printed but not on line yet) the Midget White Turkey produces more eggs than most so they open up a range of possibilities for cooking with them. The study found they were excellent in things such as deviled eggs and custards/creams but not quite as nice in lighter foods such as Angel food cake or genoise.

Also: here is an interesting article about a chef and the use of many eggs: Eggs: chef shows chicken don't always come first.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Finally some pictures--2nd post of the day

I have taken some picture of my new sheep finally---not many and most of these I used on my web site too but I did promise I would show them so here they are. By the way---I did finally come up with names for all of them. Not the most innovative names---but easy to say and remember names :-D

here we have "EL" which my husband said was not technically a name but I told him one of the blogs I read: Fast grow the weeds----SHE calls herself EL so what the heck. This ewe is very pretty and unique---so EL is the perfect name for a "pretty and ewenique ewe" hehehe

Here we have "TOO". Yes, I know it's silly but it's a play on words. First she is the half sister to one of our ewe (as in two) and we just HAD to have her also (as in too!) She's a friendly little thing---just like her half sister. She's watching me in this picture but wouldn't look up.

This is "TEX" my new ram for this year.
Not only are we originally from Texas but I would have to say that Tex is wearing a "ten gallon hat's worth" of horns on his head. Also.....this is the "T" year for tattoos---so for once I matched the name AND the year code!

Then we have "Paris"---we had trouble with her name so...We'll stick with this though I am not sure it fits her as well as another would have, but there you have it. Sometimes you go with what you have.

Finally we have "Gray Lady" aka Lady, as in "you know the little gray lady we bought". She's very refined so it fits her well.

All these sheep are "technically" lambs---but they will go on to breed and have lambs for me this next spring. Watch for them----it will get here quicker than you think.

Soon I will mostly be blogging about the garden again (and then there is Christmas too). Woosh! I am ready for fall and winter when the sheep pretty much don't need me as much as they do after lambing and on it the early fall.
I have already started some perennials from seed and will have to find a spot to grow them through until this next spring planting. However---I need landscape plants. I will blog about them soon----less sheep more plants :-)

We have a winner!

About a month ago a very nice lady from Tennessee contacted me about sending some of my Icelandic sheep fleeces in to the Tennessee State Fair. Kim, as she is known, handles the fleece show there and is trying to develop it into one of the larger shows in the country. As far as I can tell she is becoming somewhat successful at it since it has become one of the largest for the southeast and a pretty large one for the East in general. Kim would eventually like to have as many breeds represented in the fleece show as she can---you know all those "rare" or "less well known" breeds of sheep---in addition to the "common" breeds that are at every show across the country.
Anyway---since she already had some Icelandic breeders sending in fleeces she wanted to see if she could get some more and have as large of a class as she could. So she contacted me to ask me if I would send or bring some. I told her yes I would be glad to "promptly" send some but in the end I ding donged around. Finally--days before the judging---I sent in a few fleeces. I had almost backed out of because I have been so busy however I basically promised her and would have felt kind of bad if I hadn't sent some.
So up to the Tennessee State Fair I sent a solid black adult ewe, a solid moorit ewe lamb and a solid moorit adult ram. These were pretty much the best I still had left since either 1) any other candidates were already sold and mailed or 2) the sheep had done some "dirty deed" to their fleece like scratching against the water trough and felting sections of it. I of course hoped one or two would place to pay for the shipping to the show and back to me (Kim was so very nice to offer to ship back as an encouragement for me to please send some). I was not holding my breath though. I knew my fleeces this year were the nicest we had ever had, but I wasn't sure how they compared to others. After three continuous years of vitamin/mineral work for our flock we are finally getting close to getting it right---and it's starting to show. As I said though---I didn't know how they compared to others.

Anyways, late at night this past Sunday I received a call from Kim. Good news. My black ewe had taken first in the ewe class though my lamb had not placed----the judge felt it was TOO soft to correctly represent the Icelandic breed (better that than some other faults aye?). However the ewe lamb did sell to someone :-) and would not be coming home to me. Yeah! Also, even better news my ram fleece placed first in his class AND then went on to beat out some pretty heavy competition to win Best in Show! So now not only do I get some cash for winning---but I also get a special ribbon and a "pewter" platter. Go figure. I am not even into that sort of thing-- however I am glad that my fleeces did so well.
Kim said the Judge narrowed best of show down to a Romney, a Rambouillet (which is basically a type of merino sheep) and my Icelandic ram. She said he finally said that to him my ram's fleece was just so nice and epitomized what an Icelandic should be that he couldn't not give him Best in Show. Also, Kim and the Judge both said they absolutely loved the color--she said the judge raved about it! My ram does have a very odd color---and for an Icelandic who does not carry the gray gene, he for some reason has a "grayish" almost blackish cast to his brown. Very different. Very unique.
Now just to give you an idea how big this is for him and us just let me tell you----"primitive" breeds like Icelandics, Karakuls etc RARELY ever beat out sheep like Ramboullet or Romney or a few other better appreciated breeds for Best in Show. So for a primitive to win Best in Show is a pretty big deal!

Since this ram is technically "sold"--- and to a lady who wanted to add him to her flock specifically for his fleece attributes---I'd say I represented him well AND she got a sheep that hopefully will do for her exactly what she hopes he will.
So next year we are again sending in fleeces to the fair--as promised to Kim (again)-- AND I already have the moorit ewe lamb's fleece from next year sold since it was so appreciated! How about that!
I will post a picture of my "winnings" when they get to me---which could be a week or two I was told.

Also, thanks for helping us make our booth a success at the "fair" this weekend. We appreciate it and enjoyed seeing everyone. We were one of the few booths that actually went beyond breaking even and actually made money. The town did not do it's best to advertise this year---and it showed---but luckily we did well.
I have also been asked by the lady that is running the "museum" in our downtown to 1) please come and do a spinning demonstration periodically there when the antique train comes into town on Saturdays (bringing tourist from Tennessee) and 2) to offer some of my knitted items and hand spun yarns in the gift shop.

** A quick plug for my "sponsor": SmallMeadow Farm---check out the site it is updated with fleeces, fiber and hand spun and/or hand dyed yarns. Check it out :-)

Overall---a DAMN good weekend wouldn't you say? :-D At least in regards to sheep!:-D

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Bachelor Pad

Every fall we get to the point of deciding where exactly are we going to put each group of breeding animals. Always the conundrum since each ram's group has to have a gap between the other group(s). Why? Because rams will fight through fences even if they can't see each other. They will bash down fences, gates and anything in between them to establish who is top dog and to "get the girls". If one ram is older and obviously the dominate ram---they will still fight until the dominate ram can "gather" all the girls from the other side. Needless to say the girls stay well out of this battle and are not that interested in being gathered (most of the time). However during all this the poor shepherd ends up constantly trying to repair all the damaged things and keep everyone apart and in their correct place--not always that easy with rams in the grip of rut. Though they are usually fine with the shepherd ---they can be much harder at this time to control and to get their attention. Bull headed would be the description that comes to mind here---and annoying.
Now fortunately---we have always been successful BUT we have at times had gates accosted when another group did not have an "appropriate" distance. So, as I mentioned--with each year comes the new decision of who goes where.
This year to help us with that---we made a new pen. It is a small area and will technically be the official "bachelor" pen for the rams after breeding and until they go back in with the girls after lambing. Until that period of time however--one breeding group will go into this pen which will make it easier on us as far as keeping a good distance between the other group. Also, as fate would have it we will end up with only two rams. So, with this new pen it actually will work out well for us by allowing more of our pasture to rest during the winter (especially after this hard drought year) and possibly even re seed more of it if it ever rains regularly again.
Ike---who is pictured above with the chicken on him will come in this pen with his three girls. All the rest of the girls will go into the back pasture with our new ram "Tex" (yes, kind of a silly name---but there you have it).
My point of posting this was to show how we are allowing this pen to overflow into the chicken area. Ike as you can see is taking full advantage of it by laying in front of the chicken coop door. This morning I had to change the hinges on the door since Ike kept knocking it close by laying against it. No sooner had I done that then two of the rams (both soon to move to new places) squooshed their selves through the door and hung around inside the coop. The chickens as you can see are fine with this---they just climb over the rams to get in or out.
The "long view" picture up there is the beginning of the attachment to the back of the coop that will be the new shelter for whatever animals end up in this pen over time. A place to keep their hay dry and for them to get out of the worst that winter dishes out (if winter ever comes!). The tarp is a temporary side to help with sun control right now but the roof and posts only took a couple of days to get done. Eventually it will be finished---we are much quicker with animal shelters than our own :-D and a group of sheep will move in for a few months. The girls would be glad to know they are just going to be temporarily ensconced---but since they can't understand me I am sure they will fuss at me all the while they are there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Getting ready

We have been getting ready for our local festival that occurs each year at this time. It is a Civil War/reenactment/craft festival that is hosted by our town. Chickamauga is one of the small areas around Lookout Mountain that saw fighting during the civil war as the North pushed through to Atlanta. As an added history lesson (a little bonus if you will) for those of you who didn't know---this area held off the North for quite a while. If they had won---Atlanta would never have been burned. This was the last great battle and because they lost here, Atlanta fell to the Union forces.

Anyway, we (yes, my husband is helping) have been prepping fiber until I feel like I could scream. Though I don't have many pictures of it I thought that I would post a few just so you could see some of it and we will try and remember to take a picture of our booth this weekend.
We won't have a huge selection at our booth since quite a bit of our fiber is already sold but we have added a few things like dye to sell and a few other small things. Our area doesn't really seem to have a place to by fiber dye so we are going to offer it at our booth along with a few other non essentials. We will see how it sells here and at our next festival we go to to decide if we will keep offering it.
We were hoping to also have pelts for sale but unfortunately they will not be back in time to have on hand. We had six this year: two black, three black gray, and one moorit gray. Most are lamb fleeces---but two are adult ewes and all should be very nice except maybe one. The butcher was a bit "eager" to get it off and may have left it in less than perfect condition. We will see. The tanner takes 4 to 8 weeks to do them before sending them back. It has been 5 now and so they shouldn't be much longer but I don't think they will make this weekend.

No matter that we are low on supplies---the booth is only 25 dollars and we will mingle for the afternoon with people while they watch us spin and also with friends from in town.---generally a good afternoon for everyone.
Maybe we may see some of you there? We will be located near the Coke Ovens with the other crafters. Stop in and say hi if you come.

Monday, September 10, 2007

(NAIS) Causes Cancer?

As I am sure some of you know I have been against NAIS (national animal identification system) since I first heard of it. There are a number of reasons that I have never been for it---personal privacy topping the list. Now, to make me even more convinced that it is a bad idea, here is a new piece of evidence against using micro-chipping in animals or humans. (By the way---if I was forced to chip a breeding ewe she would wear that for about an average of 13 years---how long did the study animals wear their chips?)
Now I have heard of this story in passing previously, but since the "mainstream" media has now picked it up---maybe it will go a bit farther than stories like this normally do.
Also---notice the reference to former head of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson who, in the article is quoted as saying: "I didn't even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services," he said in a telephone interview." Read the rest and see if you believe that one.
With all the under the table deals (that are pro big business and not really good for the average person) that have occurred during these past two Presidential terms----I am not surprised that Mr Thompson works where he does now nor that he denies ever having met them before. Yeah right.
Good day all---and still hoping for some sort of water from the sky here :-)

Here's the article in the Washington Post titled : Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors.
dated September 8th, 2007
Thanks to Todd Lewan for writing the piece.