Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lambing is Done - Whew!

Barabas and Barbaros - twin moorit ram lambs

We are all done lambing on Harmony Sheep Farm. We ended up with 4 rams and 4 ewes. Was hoping for more ewe lambs as I had a waiting list for some ewe lambs. Since I have a small flock and only want to have 10-12 ewes with a few rams at breeding season, we will be retaining the ewe lambs to evaluate as replacement breeding stock for the following year. We do not breed first season ewes, so we have a while to let these gals mature.

We are going to sell some of the ram lambs at a reduced price. I just have a hard time thinking about eating my own sheep (I know, I'm a wimp!), so I would rather sell them at market value and let someone else enjoy them as a possible flock sire, fiber pet or dinner. Pics of all the lambs can be seen on our webpage: http://www.harmonysheep.com/. You can also follow us on Facebook under Harmony Sheep: https://www.facebook.com/HarmonySheep

I was very surprised at the amount of flashing and spotting with this year's lamb crop. Every sheep is either spotted or has flashing. Last year was the complete opposite and I used the same ram. The color genetics is so facinating in the Icelandic Sheep breed. I love it! My favorite patterned lamb is the ewe lamb from Heather - lots of flashing with beautiful coal black fleece mixed in.


The flock was sheared last week and ended up with some pretty nice fleece for winter fleeces. I have started skirting and surprisingly there was not much felting on Heathcliffe's fleece as his was a year's worth of growth. Not sure what I am going to do with his fiber as it is very long. Maybe I need to look into some felting projects. :)

Greg and I have started trail riding locally and Greg has been riding Harlow, our 9-year-old MFT mare in addition to Major. Major gets a little bit of a reprieve as Harlow needs to go back to work instead of living the life of leisure! She is doing well and can keep up with Betsy Sue....in fact Betsy Sue and I get passed frequently now. That rarely happens with slow and steady Major. HA!

Last Saturday Greg and I went to Rock Creek Park and came upon a trail that was not marked on the provided map. The trail was called Spirit Trail. It was very nice and someone had handpainted livestock skulls in Indian and Western themes. They were all nicely done! It was fun to see how the next skull around the bend in the trail was going to be decorated.

For those of you waiting on my young hens to start laying, here are a few updated pics. They have started venturing outside now.... not to far from the coop, but they are getting braver each week. The Golden Laced Top knots are comical and fun to watch peck the ground. I have always enjoyed top knots!

Let me know if you know of good felting project websites or blogs. I like looking at this site for neat "free" crotchet patterns: http://freecrochetpattern.weebly.com/crochet-patterns-horses-and-ponies.html


Monday, April 9, 2012

First Lambs of the Season

Good Friday started out Great! Daisy, my leadersheep ewe delivered a ram and ewe lamb sometime between 1AM and 6AM. She is a very experienced mother and did a great job taking care of her twins in the early morning hours.

The ram is named Barbwire and the ewe is Babette. Babette was very vigorous at a few hours old which is typical of leadersheep. She was up bouncing around like a goat kid while Barbwire was content to lay in the early morning sun. Needless to say he is very laid back and comes up to be held and scratched. While Babette is fairly independent. She will sit on my lap for a little while and then wants down to go and nurse or play on a concrete block.

I always find it interesting on the early personalities of baby animals and how that usually carries over into adult hood. More lambs should be arriving this week and I hope all goes well.

Here are the pedigrees for these lambs: Daisy and Soloman


Daisy and Barbwire

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chicks and Working Girls

I can't believe the chicks will be four weeks old tomorrow. Amazing how fast they grow. I moved them to the big girl house AKA chicken coop. They are in a wire pen so they can see the older hens and the hens can get used to them. In about 5 days I will let them out and then they can start exploring the big wide world of the coop and outside fenced area. They are to small to let free range right now as they could easily become cat or hawk dinner!

The Black Sex Links should start laying in about twelve weeks with the others following a few weeks later. I am so looking forward to these gals eggs as I have more demand than supply right now.

Golden Laced Top Knot
I have had several requests from my egg buyers to see some of the hens that supply them with delicious, robust flavored eggs. So below are several pictures of the working girls.

Black Tail Japenese Bantam

Blue Americana

Working Girls
I also attempted my first hand shear tonight. I need to get better on shearing the sides, but all in all a good learning experience. Apollo was pretty well behaved for his first shear even when I nicked his leg twice. I feel really bad about causing him to have an owey. Note to self to go slower around legs. I really hate the loose skin on the back hip as it is very hard to clip the fleece in this area. His fleece is a years worth or growth so it has quite a bit of VM in it. Too bad since his thel is soooo soft. Maybe I can use some of it for a felting project.

Before Hand Shear

After Hand Shear

Friday, March 9, 2012

Peeps and Fleece

The new little peeps arrived to the farm. All these little chicks are pullets; at least I hope! I am trying some new layers that I have never had before and some tried and true ones. New to me this year are New Hampshire Reds, Black Sex Links, and Barred Rocks. The others are Top Knots and Buff Orpingtons (substituted for Buff Rocks) . Iwas suppose to get some Arauanas and Silver Laced Wyandottes, but there was an issue with the hatch. So I'll try getting those breeds in the next couple of weeks from the feed store.

I tried to raise some Barred Rocks last year, but they all turned out to be roosters; I had purchased them from a 4-H girl who said she learned how to sex chicks. Needless to say she needed a little more experience. :)

My hens have started laying again and I have gained 5 new customers from work, so these new pullets will really be beneficial in supplying eggs to people who enjoy free range eggs instead of eggs from commercial producers.

I really like my crossbreed chicks that were hatched by some broody hens last summer. I'm amazed at how I can see both the hen and rooster genetics in the off-spring. The white and black tail hen and rooster are a White Silkie and Black Tail Japanese Bantam cross. The blue hen is a cross of Araucana and Black Bantam. She lays a teal blue egg.

Last Sunday my mom helped me skirt some fleece. We did Heathers and I started on my last fleece from Fauna. Heather has such awesome fleece. So soft and crimpy. I love spinning her fleece too. It really has a nice black luster when it is spun. I have a few more fleeces to skirt before the next shear on April 22. So this Sunday I'll be a skirting up a storm. All I have to do is convince Greg that skirting is fun! Actually I enjoy it and love the sheepy smell of the fiber.

Only a few more weeks until the lambs arrive. Faith is soooo very round. I am fairly confident she is going to have twins again and would not be shocked if she had triplets. I'm enjoying my last week of sleep. Next week I'll start checking on the gals in the middle of the night. I just wish the sheep barn was closer to the house as those late night checks can be quite chilly.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spinning Addictions

Well I have a new found passion: Spinning! Who would have thought it would be soooo addicting. I love it! This fiber art clicks with me. I've been spinning for almost two weeks and can see the gradual improvement in the twist and consistantcy in the yarn. It is a great stress reliever after a crazy day at work.

Greg likes spinning also, so I have to share my new toy! Hee hee. We bought a Louet double treadle. I really like it.

I've been doing some drop spindle spinning with some of my raw fleece (Heather's), but haven't had enough time to card a batch of slivers for the spinning wheel. So, I've been using some mystery fiber on the wheel. It's not bad, just not as soft as my Icelandic wool. And it is a boring white. So my next adventure will be to dye some of my yarn. There are so many techniques on the net and you-tube, that I haven't decided how I am going to do it. Do you have a favorite method?

Only 6 more weeks or so before the lambs arrive. This time of year seems so slow to me. The anticipation of Spring and new born lambs seems so far off! Spring will be here soon as the horses have started to shed their winter coats. Always a welcome sign that warmer weather and trail riding is just around the corner.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

AWA Grant

Hi Y'All, got some great news to share. Last fall I submitted a request for a grant to Animal Welfare Approved organization. I had to explain my current farm set-up and how a grant would benefit the sheep and improve their life on our farm. I explained that I needed some portable shelters and electronet to rotate the sheep. The portable shelters were really needed since we have no trees in the pasture! Pasture rotation with the portable shelter is in essence an intensive grazing practice which should reduce parasite loads in the sheep and in turn reduce the reliance and need for chemical wormers.

Well I'm excited to say that my grant was Approved and I received 80 percent of my requested amount today! Woohoo!! The other 20 percent will be sent when my plan has been implemented. This will make happy sheep. :)

I enrolled both the sheep and laying hens in the AWA program. Next year I will try for a mobile chicken house. This will really help me in the maintenance of the chickens and reduce my work load on cleaning out a stationary chicken house during the spring and summer.

I am very proud to join the AWA Organization. AWA's practice of animal husbandry was very much inline with the way we raise livestock on our farm so it was not too hard to accept their rules for raising our sheep and chickens. You can read more about AWA here: http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Hi all, it's been a looooong time since I posted. Fall brings lots of trail rides and getting ready for winter on the farm. Since we had such fantastic weather this fall, Greg and I trail rode a lot so I didn't find much time to update the blog.

The fall riding started with 4-J Big Piney in September. We had a fantastic time with our friends Tomina and Dennis; and this was Rudy's first camping trip. Then it was off to Ponderosa at the beginning of October. Once again we had fabulous weather and we also checked out Hobbs State Park - http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/hobbsstateparkconservationarea/  This park has nice groomed trails and also a very nice visitor center.

Big Piney

We also did numerous day trips near our home. We rode at La Cygne Lake and Rock Creek Park at the end of October and several times in November. Rock Creek Park trails are varied with lots of old stacked rock walls. I find those old rock walls fascinating and wonder how long it took the person to build them. Rock Creek Park also has a nice semi-primitive campground. Most of the trails can be ridden in a long weekend on gaited horses. We rode the entire east trail section and about 2/3rds of the west trails. We like the middle and top sections of the trails the best as the terrain is more hilly with nice overlooks of the lake.

In late October we put the sheep breeding groups together. I had planned on breeding Apollo to Heather, but she was adamant that he was not going to breed her. So, she was put back in with Heathcliffe and Apollo was a bachelor for 8 weeks. I did not breed my first winter ewes as I think the have a harder time fighting parasites in the early spring and summer not to mention the increased feed that is required to keep them in good flesh.

I also added a new ewe to the flock. She is a bred 7 year-old Leadersheep ewe named Daisy. She is black spotted and is very sweet natured. I can really see the Leadersheep qualities in her. She is very attentive in the pasture and is very good at determining if she should flee from a perceived danger. Another interesting thing about her is she has dense crimpy fleece. It is tightly curled and I will be interested to see how it spins.... might be very good for felting too. She is smart also- because she was not on pasture when I brought her home, I would limit the amount of time she was out on the grass increasing each day by a half hour or so. Most sheep would run if they were going to be placed in a paddock alone, but not her. She followed me every day from the sheep fold into the barn from one stall into the adjacent one. She did this every day for 12 days very calmly. Gotta love a smart and well behaved ewe.


My other sheep fleeces are looking fabulous! I really like being able to let them winter graze on the pasture we had fenced in this summer. This has really helped on the hay bill and they are in excellent body condition. I am so looking forward to spring lambs. I would really like a spotted ewe lamb and have two chances with Faith or Daisy. Another Badgerface would be nice too. Oh heck, I like all the patterns and colors!!



So all in all, 2011 was a pretty good year. I wish all of you a prosperous and blessed New Year.