Friday, August 6, 2010

Sheep Shots

Before my chip ran out of room last night, I took some early evening shots of the sheep.

The lambs are growing, growing, growing. They have turned out to be: 1 musket, 2 moorit w/silver (fawn-like), and 1 moorit. All of the ram lambs have retained beautiful body structure from their sire, Conway.

The musket boy has ended up as my top pic for a herd sire; he has Brownie's fabulous lock structure (soft and curly), Conway's wool length (approx. 4 - 5 inches), and a beatiful and wide horn spread. The moorit would make a lovely sire as well, with his long, primitive coat and dark coloring. Both of them are respectful, even standoffish -- which is very helpful in a ram.

The two fawn-like boys are to be wethered at the vet's very soon. Both of them are super friendly and have gorgeous wool, but their horns are too close together on their heads for my liking. Not to mention, their friendly personalities will make them excellent fiber pets. Except for one wether, they are still for sale.

Please let me know if you're interested in taking home one of these handsome fellows! I can send more photos of wool close-ups, etc. Enjoy!



Friday, July 23, 2010

A Summer of Revelations

Alright, so I absolutely survived my first summer semester back to college. I've missed blogging, but I just haven't had the time between the usual "goings on" here with the kids and the farm and the classes. I took Composition I online and Psychology I on campus. I loved both of my classes, especially once I took a "chill pill."

First, I decided to go back to school last spring. After thinking very hard about a career in nursing, I decided that what I really want is to counsel other people, especially children. In the state of Kansas, this means I will need a Masters. I have time to decide whether I will obtain my bachelor's in Psychology or Social Work, and then a master's to follow. Imagine the levels needed to fulfill this goal; out of about 100 squares I'm on number 2. Lots of grins, though. I just don't mind.

That "chill pill" I was referring to happened about a month into schooling. I was soooo stressing about writing "perfect" papers, taking "perfect" tests, that I just about imploded! When I stood back and evaluated the priorities in my life, specifically, what I wanted to be my personal best at, I realized that getting a high "A" in every class was not at the top of my list. Do I think I have the ability to get all A's in my classes? Yes. However, is it worth it to grump at my husband and kids, stress out, and lose sleep over it? NO! When I realized it wasn't even within the top 3 on my list of important stuff, well, I just relaxed and enjoyed. Of course, the house duties fell behind, the spring-sheared wool was neglected, and the house dogs got stinky; however, I started smiling more and laughing with my daughters. Although hubby NEVER complained -- God Bless the man! -- I'm sure he was a bit relieved as well. Isn't it funny how a simple shift in focus can make the days brighter and the pack on one's back lighter?

During this summer of evaluating, prioritizing and revelations, Troy and I have decided to homeschool our children. Our oldest is four years, so it will be a gradual process, nothing stressful for either of us. At her young age, I'd be fine if she just wanted to play all of the time, but she seems to be inheriting my love for books -- YAHOO! -- and is anxious to learn to read. Who am I to slow that thirst for knowledge?! Troy and I are very excited about the possibilities and advantages they will gain from homeschooling.

Of course, with homeschooling and my own personal choice to "not stress out", my own schooling will simmer on the back burner. As time allows I will continue to plug away at my own courses, and I'm very happy with that decision. If I'm not able to fully pursue my degree(s) until they are off to college, that will simply serve to help me fill the lonely gap their leaving home will undoubtedly create.

Pscyhology was a blast, but I enjoyed my Composition class more than I suspected I would. I have posted my two favorite class essays onto my "Artsy Stuff" blog; one was about a memorable event, and the other was about a memorable person -- both directly pertaining to my own life.

Now that school is out, I can catch up on the housework, the sheep that need deworming, the chicken coops that need cleaning, and the wool that needs skirting & washing. I can start sewing a new quilt and practice making yarn with my drop spindle, at least for a little while. I can even resume taking pics and blogging about sheep, guineas, and all of the other numerous critters that live here (or just stop by for a visit).   :)


THANK YOU...


I would like to thank my lovely teacher, Ms. Patty McDonald, for all of her help. I wish you could proof everything I write! Your words of encouragement were bolstering to my confidence and very much appreciated.

Thank you Troy, for all of your loving support.

Thank you Ashyln & Scarlett, for loving your Mommy even when she was a tired "grumpy bear."

Thank you Steph, Dani, Mom, Grandma & Grandpa for your listening ears and loving words.

Thank you Dad for discussing Psychology with me; I've enjoyed our talks since I was a little girl.

Thank you to my fellow bloggers for giving me much needed diversions from my schoolwork and stress, especially when I was up late trying to stretch my brain cells for another test.

Thank you God for your ever-patient, loving guidance.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Guinea Babies!

June has always been the most popular month for birthdays in my family. It seems the Guineas on our farm have followed tradition! Yesterday, while chatting with my sister on the phone, I glanced out the window and saw this...
Of course, this is a shot from our side of the screen window. Go outside, and one gets a clearer view...



Well, by golly! Imagine my surprise, and delight, to see these little ones hopping around in the grass. If you've been following the Guinea saga, you know that this Guinea hen has been disappearing frequently for a few weeks now. I assumed there might be a nest, but I never suspected she'd succeed in hatching her own little brood. Way to go girl!

Mom & Dad are so proud. The keets (guinea babies) are 1 or 2 days old. There are a total of nine little balls of fluff, each small enough to fit into a tiny teacup. Too cute!!!


Both parents are involved in caring for the keets during the day. Even Daddy is sooo gentle with his babies. However, at night he returns to the barn to roost, and Momma and chicks go back to their nest. They are so well-hidden from view that I can't find them, even by flashlight at 1:30 am! I was up anyway, and I thought I might see them better by flashlight. Nope. Well, nature's doing just fine without my help so far. So, we'll just see how it goes. I'll be impressed if all babies make it to adulthood, but that is the natural course of survival. If they do all make it, it's surely going to be one noisy farm! We thought 3 adults Guineas were loud. Ha!


Does anyone out there know anything about Guinea genetics? It looks as though we have Royal Purple keets (same as parents in pic), Pearl keets (same as the first brooding hen who disappeared, permanently), and maybe one chick that could be Bronze or Chocolate (which would be rare), or just a faded Pearl. I'm wondering if two Royal Purple parents can make a Pearl? Or, is it possible the Pearl keets are actually babies from our lost Pearl hen? That would be neat, passing on her legacy.

We humans, so sentimental!

Do you know what it is?




She knows.  :)


Go on, I dare you to guess what kind of fowl's in the first pic!


All will be revealed in time...
tee hee hee, snicker snicker

Friday, June 25, 2010

Unexpected Visitor



Wednesday was our oldest daughter's fourth birthday. At 8:00 am our dogs started to bark at the patio window. I thought maybe a lamb had squeezed through the fencing, or maybe chicken had found her way over the gate. When I looked out the window, this is who I saw...



"Hello, little lady." She was covered in tics, maybe a few days worth. She looked slightly underweight, maybe just by a few days as well. She was scared. Somehow, this tiny little thing found her way past all of the other critters, into the backyard and around to our patio. Hmm.

Currently, we are looking for her owners. However, as each day goes by with no word, the outlook is not favorable. We are very rural, and we all usually know everyone else's business, err pets - uh hum. Anyhow, nobody recognizes her, and I've posted info. regarding a found dog in all of the usual channels. Chances are good she was "dumped" by heartless humans.

If no home is found soon, we will adopt her out. Ashlyn has dubbed her "Barky", although she hasn't uttered a peep yet. She takes to a dog kennel with ease. She has no idea what to do on a leash, but she is starting to get the idea. She is very calm, very quiet, timid, and she would gladly sit on our laps all day long. She is either a toy fox terrier or a miniature rat terrier, and she probably weighs about 5 or 6 pounds. She will make a lovely lap dog. It looks like she might be in heat, or at least coming/going. If I'm right, she will need to be spayed, vaccinated, etc. Her skin is dry and slightly irritated, which could be from the ticks, outside heat, malnutrition, worms, hormones, or white dog/sensitive skin. She's not shown any aggression, even in fear. She's now been exposed to the kids, dogs, cat, chickens and sheep. Her submissive nature should fit easily into an already established pet household.

If anyone is interested in fostering her or adopting her, please let me know.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Growing Lambs


Time goes by so quickly, like a snowball rolling down a hill, getting bigger and bigger and bigger...

Such is the case with our four beautiful ram lambs, born less than two months ago. I have to make decisions on whether any of them are sire quality. This is a hard thing for a new shepardess. However, decide I must! They will all be for sale soon, and it's been such a ram lamb season for most of the shepardesses out there this year. I have to ask myself, "Am I ready to house extra ram(s) for the winter if they are not sold?" Most likely not.

From what I've read, looked at, listened to and learned so far, I think our lambs this year have very nice structure. Their sire, Fairlight Conway, has awesome body structure that he's passed on to all of them. Their wool varies in crimp, length (intermediate and primitive), color (as they mature), and genetics. They are all moorit right now, but one is an Ag musket, who will turn Brownie's lovely oatmeal color. They all carry spotting genetics. Their horns look different from each other, and I'm having a hard time guessing who's horns will turn and clear appropriately. Overall, there are one or two that stand out with the most "ramly" presence.

I've put myself on a deadline to make my final decisions this weekend. Anyone checking out this blog, please feel free to give me your input. For now though, I'm just posting some recent pics to show them off. Regardless whether they are better ram or wether material, they're still lambs and still awfully cute, sweet and fun to hang out with! So without further ado, here are the twin ram lambs from Miss Fairlight Pixie and Miss Fairlight Brownie, sired by Mr. Fairlight Conway.


L to R: Pixie's lamb #1, Brownie's lambs #1 & #2 (musket), Pixie,
(in front, on knees) Pixie's lamb #2


L to R: Brownie's lambs #1 & #2 (musket), Brownie

Brownie's lamb #2 (musket)


Brownie's lamb #1

 

Brownie's lamb #1

 

Pixie's lamb #2

 

L to R: Pixie's lamb #2 & #1, Brownie's lambs #1 & #2 (musket)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Guinea Update

What the heck?! Our lavender female just showed up with the male yesterday. She's been missing for over a week! I've yet to hear her call her "buck-whee" sound. In fact, she hasn't uttered a peep. VERY odd for a guinea. They are not known for their quiet dispositions. However, she looks fit, and she's roosting in the barn again. What kind of adventure do you suppose she's been on?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"3 Little, 2 Little, 1 Little Guinea Guy"

In the beginning, there were three. "Fa la la la..."



Then there were two. "I'll watch your back, you watch mine."



"The cheese stands alone..."




Our Guineas are disappearing! Last summer someone traded us three 6-week old Guineas: one pearl hen, one lavender hen and one lavender male. After the initial one month in confinement, to be sure they knew where home was, they have lived free-range with our chickens. Up until now, we've never had a problem. They would roam during the day, and at night they would return to the barn and roost in the rafters with the other chickens.



About three months ago their social structure changed a bit. The male and the pearl hen paired up, and they would take frequent visits across our street into the neighbor's pasture. Our male would charge at cars, even my school bus, when passing by a certain area. I assumed they had started a nest, even though they still returned to the barn at night for some grain and sleep. I searched around the tall prairie grasses, hoping to find a nest full of eggs, but to no avail.

Well, with all of this car-charging behavior I figured it was a matter of time before Mr. Macho bit the dust. But oh no, it was the pretty pearl hen who disappeared first. She was there one day and just gone the next! I had a small hope that she was busy nesting and would show up one day with a little brood following behind her. Really though, that was just a pipe dream, seeing as how the mister was in the barn without his bride. He was so protective of her, even from me, that I just couldn't really imagine him leaving her behind.

So, as the days progressed, no signs of Miss Pearl. Even though the male was hanging out with the remaining hen, it was obvious he was not courting her. He even seemed to be flying to high perches more often than before, searching and calling for his little lost hen. Poor guy.

Well, about a week and a half went by like this. Then I went out to the barn two nights ago, and uh-oh, we're another guinea hen short! No dead bird on the side of the road, no tell-tale feathers from an animal attack. What the heck?! And now, Mr. Macho's no longer so macho. He's even walking around with a mildly injured leg, which from a short distance seems to be healing fine. (They've always been wild, and I've never tried to tame them.)



Here's what I know:
1) These disappearances are happening during the day.
2) The chickens are roaming in the same areas every day and coming home just fine.
3) My guineas are faster on the ground and in the air than the chickens.
4) It's a lot quieter around here without the females calling, "buck-whee, buck-whee" all day long.
5) I haven't seen any stray dogs in the area for a couple months, at least.


My theories:
1) A predator is picking the guineas off.
2) A car has injured them, and they died far off into the grass where I can't find them, possibly scavenged by other critters.
3) A hunter is picking them off, thinking they're wild turkeys... although I don't believe it's turkey season.
4) A neighbor has had it with their obnoxious noise making... although our neighbors are all farmers with high livestock ethics, AND, all live a quarter mile away or more.
5) A drive by Guinea enthusiast is capturing them and taking them home to their evil lair... even too far-fetched for me to believe, not to mention, to catch a wary Guinea they'd have to use one of those fancy nets that is blown out of a gun-like apparatus - like in the movies.


My Questions:
1) What kind of predator is out during the day that's large enough to nab a full grown guinea?
2) Why is it targeting the guineas and not the chickens, at least not yet?
3) Is it possible the male guinea is actually the culprit?



Anyone out there have any thoughts?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cardinal vs. Mirror?

He's on a mission...


He WILL destroy the dude on the other side of that mirror who thinks he's prettier than he is!






"Day after day I have come back to face you. I will not give in, EVER!!!"




video



No animals were harmed during the making of this film.





Friday, May 7, 2010

Brownie's Lambs Have Arrived AT LAST!

Welcome to the world Brownie's twin ram lambs... yes, it IS an all boy year!
They were born one week and three hours after Pixie's boys, around 9pm last night. The first sign I caught of pending labor was Wednesday night. Brownie's belly had dropped a bit, hips hollowing out mildly, and vulva looking more red than pink. Oh ho ho, here we go... so all day yesterday we checked Brownie on the hour to see if there was any progress. Wouldn't you know that I had to drive a field trip for the high school varsity softball team (they won both games - woo hoo), that kept me away from home from 12:30 to 7:30! However, Troy was under strict instructions to check her and call me if any changes. Nothing happened while I was gone... yeah!!!!
When I came home it was time to round up Pixie & lambs, along with Brownie, into the maternity pen/lambing jugs for the night. When I approached Brownie she was standing by the fence, panting, vulva swollen, in obvious pain and slight confusion. However, she coasted right into the pen for me. I put Pixie and her boys to bed, for safety and to keep them out of Brownie's way, and went inside to have a late dinner with my hubby.
Afterwards, we played on the patio with the kids... it was a beautiful spring day to be outside. My husband heard Brownie's, with lack of a better way to describe it, cow grunts & groans first. I jumped up, ran into the house, threw on my 'I don't care if they get stains' clothes, grabbed the camera & flashlight and sprinted outside to the pen. Was that one really large hoof??? Brownie would lay down on her side and make terrible noises with a few contractions, then stand back up again and pant. This process repeated several times. The noises make it harder to bear witness. You feel so helpless watching, knowing she's in pain. I've been there, I know! I watched my best friend give birth to her first baby girl, and it was a similar feeling of helplessness... thank goodness sheep birthing is a blip on the radar compared to the length of some human births!
Alright, back to that hoof... I'm thinking a lot of things, "Oh no, what if this lamb's just too large? Will I need to push the leg back and pull the other one forward like it says in the book? Should I call the vet? Should I call Tammy? How long do I wait? Why was I thinking I was equipped to be a shepherdess?" I ran back into the house, did who-knows-what with the camera and grabbed a clean pair of socks, just in case I needed to assist with a slippery lamb. Back outside again, I find Brownie doing the real work of pushing her lamb's nose out. About that time, by flashlight mind you, I see the "one hoof" is actually two. Oh crap, where's my camera?! "Troy, help,!" Out slithered the baby. Phew! Enters Troy with the camera, thanks hon! Someone has to keep their cool, and it's not gonna be me. This is too exciting! :)
She promptly went to work, cleaning off lamb #1. Oh my, he looks just like Brownie as a lamb. This means we have a beautiful, err handsome, Ag lamb who will have the same gorgeous oatmeal colored fleece as his momma! Woo hoo!

In about 15 minutes or so, she laid down on her side. Gave about three pushes with a fair bit of noise, and voila! Baby #2 has arrived!




After a little bit of cleaning from Brownie, it looks as though we have a moorit ram lamb with a few white hairs on the top of his head. Awe, look at their positions... Walking and looking for that elusive first drink of milk is hard work!



Last picture before my batteries ran out. You can see Pixie and her twins witnessing Brownie's miracle. At some point I noticed Pixie "baahing" a fair bit. I'm not sure if it started before or after the new lambs starting mewling for Brownie. She was either coaching Brownie through it all or just getting maternal and trying to call them over to her. After all, new mothers know everything, don't they?



I waited awhile for Brownie's afterbirth to pass (or at least to be well on it's way) and for her and babies to bond without interference. Cleaned babies umbilical cords with Betadine, gave them two pumps of Nutri-Drench and checked for horn buds. Yep, that's what I thought! Sigh, no ewes this year. Then I gave Brownie warm molasses water and jugged them all up. I removed all soiled hay from pen and loaded fresh stuff in, so as not to attract predators with the blood scent. Off into the house to clean up.



At 11:45 I did a final check. Brownie's afterbirth was out, and she had already eaten it. Good girl! NOTE: For those not familiar with this process... it's a normal animal instinct to hide signs of lambs from predators. Plus it's full of nutrients for the mother. So, always give your animals a chance to clean it up, but if they don't, you should do it for them.

I still hadn't seen a successful nursing, but I was betting that Brownie would settle down and give the boys more time to find what they were looking for once I was out of her wool. With a big "Thank You" to God for helping Brownie safely deliver two healthy lambs, I went to bed for some much needed sleep.



At 2:45am... you didn't think I'd sleep all night, did you?.. I snuck outside to check on the new family. All was well, both lambs were standing up, and Brownie was nice and calm. My common sense says a weak unfed lamb wouldn't be standing, so I felt reassured they'd make it through the night and went back to sleep for another 3 hours before the alarm went off... time to run the school bus route. Yeehaw! Feelin' perky! Ha!


So this morning, here's what everybody looks like in the light of day. This boy looks a bit lighter than Pixie's lambs. Could be a lighter moorit or maybe a fawn down the road?? Only time will tell for sure. What a sweetie! All of Conway's boys have the cutest little heads, don't they?




This is Brownie's famous look. It means, "What are you up to now lady?" Brownie is just like her mother, Locksfield Willow, who's home is at Fairlight Farm. They're both very untrusting of those humans. Says Brownie, "Other than those delicious animal crackers and bits of bread (my favorite treats), what are they good for, really?" ...cue the sniff and wary eyed look of disdain.





Alright, check out the Brownie lamb pic from March 2008:
See any resemblance?




Here's another look from the new momma. I think she's saying, "Butt out already!"



Now, this post should be dedicated all to Brownie and her lambs. However, the camera was in my hands...


"Look Ma, neighbors!"

"Huh? What? You talkin' to me?"


"Really bro! She's taking my picture. Would you get your nose outta...! How embarrassing."


"Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Why you eatin' that stuff Ma?"


"Say wa? Are you talkin' to me, again?"

Pose familiar? Fairlight Pixie lamb pic, March 2008:


"Wheeeee! Leap frog's the best!"

Alright y'all. I'm gonna stop here. More pics just might follow soon. :)


Happy Mother's Day to all you mommas out there, whether you have furry children, the human kind, or both. Be kind and gentle to YOU.


Peace & God Bless,

Kim & Family

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Updates

Just some quick updates while the kids are taking an afternoon rest...


Pixie and her lambs are doing very well. They were let out of the lamb jug after three days. However, once they were in the maternity/nursery corral with Brownie, our other pregnant ewe, things got a little dicey. Brownie would ram the lambs if they were within two feet of her. At first Pixie seemed o.k. with this, then she got ticked off. She started to ram Brownie on her side. Well, at this point I couldn't take anymore, and I corraled Pixie and her lambs back up. I promptly called Tammy @ Fairlight Farm, my constant resource for sheep advice. It turns out, this behavior is very normal for Shetlands. Of all the things I have read about sheep care, this never came up. Apparently, most reading material is geared toward other, milder mannered sheep! Ha. So, anyhow... Tammy says so long as the lambs are old enough to be able to run back to their mama, they aren't cornered by the aggressive ewe, they will learn to stay with their mother. After a few days, or less in this case, they will calm down. Well, I decided to keep the trio in their corral for a few days and try again. HOWEVER, when I came home from my afternoon bus route Pixie had busted out of the corral. Both ewes and lambs seemed relaxed. Everyone now knows their place, and all is well. Tammy was right about something else too... it's probably a good thing I wasn't here to witness the reunion. I think watching the lambs get rammed is simply too much for me, even though it's a normal behavior and nobody was hurt. Look at them all just chillin'. BIG SIGH from this shepardess!



Brim, aka Houdini, is doing well. He's sweet, mild tempered, doesn't complain... and WILL NOT stay put! Since his leg first broke he has broken out of a large dog kennel, a garage, a bathroom, and an extra large dog run (which we bought just for his recovery)! The only thing that keeps him contained, henceforth immobile, is our sheep trailer. In an effort to ward off coyotes, we moved the trailer right next to the ewe/lamb corral so he can bark away predators at night. Pleeeease let that be enough. Brim's leg is healing well, at least now that he's officially confined. :) In 4 or 5 weeks we will be taking him back to surgeon for follow-up x-rays. Keep your paws and toes crossed!



Brownie's just getting bigger. Really Brownie, is that a cow calf in there?! Look at that waistline... If it's not twins we might be in trouble. Isn't she a pretty girl? I can't wait to see what we get. I've always thought her beautiful head looked like that of a deer. Tammy and I agree that we'll get either moorit (like Conway) or oatmeal color, like Brownie... spots are a possibility. I'll be glad when her babies are here, healthy and hale!

We had our gas tank moved today. It came with our house, and it was apparently made in the 50's. The tank's still in good shape, but the ground had settled. The tank had sunk to the ground's surface then rolled onto it's side. (Not a good thing, if you want your propane stable and your tank not to rust.) I thought it was pretty cool how they did it. Check out the contraption... it was pretty simple to move it with that thing. AND, it's now up off of the ground on blocks AND we had them move it so it's now perpendicular to house instead of parallel. We were thinking it would be less of an eyesore that way. We'd like to put up a little fence and have plants or ivy growing, but the sheep have other ideas in mind. So, it's a big improvement, and maybe we'll come up with a better plan.... like painting the tank to look like a big white fluffy sheep. Ha ha!

Happy Wednesday to all! I was gonna say "Hump Day", but does everyone get that reference? If not, well, they just might misunderstand me altogether! :)