Sunday 30 November 2014

Snow Shoot

Snow shoot does sound like snowsuit and maybe I made a typo; but no, this is a snow shoot for real.  Here are a collection of photos that hubby took after some snowfall. 

Mother Sheba and daughter Sheba enjoying the snow.  They preferred the change in weather, choosing to sleep out in the field on several nights.  When the wind picked up they slept out of its way under the overhang against the barn.

"Ruby - Dooby" I call her these days.  See the lovely 'biscuit' colouring in this light.  It runs down her back with lots of the colour on her ears.  Unseen in this photo she has a diamond of colour on the top of her head.  She continues to grow!

This is one of the last photos we have of Sheba.  You can see the expression on their faces that says, 'oh the sun is lovely today'.  The sheep in front of the llamas is Tall Girl.  She is the tallest and tall for a sheep.  Tall Girl has quite a dislike for Ruby, bashing her regularly and for no reason.  Like a dutiful Maremma, Ruby takes it all.  When a sheep threatens Ruby will sit down or lay down amongst them and the threat usually stops.  This evening I was petting a sitting Ruby and when I moved away Tall Girl bashed her.  Ruby fell over and stayed there. 

Having played for awhile Millie and Ruby are taking a rest in the sunshine.  They are on duty in front of the Big Barn.  Ruby is thoroughly enjoying her first snow.


Now the snow is gone, melted on this very balmy day.  Henrietta refused to go into the barn tonight.  She is sleeping under the overhang, by herself.  She does not seem to miss her mother.  She stays with the sheep as part of the flock.  She tries to hog the feeder and gets annoyed with the sheep.  Other than expressing her annoyance by making faces, putting her ears back and stretching her neck to lear at them, they all carry on.  For the most part the sheep seem to ignore Henrietta.  The dogs and Henrietta have had a few confrontations.  Everyone however is integrating as desired.

Millie is not far away from Henrietta tonight.  I heard her barking and it was a confrontation-with-Henrietta type of bark.  Lately Millie curls up into a tight ball in the hay feeding area - day and night.  Both dogs love the hay.  Millie was covered in hoar frost one morning and when I put out hay there was an oval spot bare of snow where she had slept.  Other times she is in the lean-to where I've piled some bedding in the spot she has selected.  She is quite comfortable.  The dog who lived under the veranda, chased cars on the road and wouldn't stay behind the fence now lives in the barn and stays with her sheep.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Busy Day

One of my favourite times of the day is the morning.  I am up early with or without the Beau-dog alarm, get dressed, eat breakfast and head out for chores.  I put the coffee pot on before I go out to the barn.  It warms me up when I come in and I do enjoy coffee, a cookie and writing my blog.

It was a very busy weekend.  Sunday alone was non-stop.  I slept very late, for me, as the Beau-dog alarm slept in and I leapt out of bed at 8:15, knowing that would was to be delivered after 8:30.  The wood delivery was fashionably farm late for a Sunday morning and arrived about 9:30.  This allowed me to get my chores done and get some coffee into me.

As we were stacking the wood, folks arrived to see Sheba.  Suzanne was very knowledgeable of llamas.  She recently lost her dearly beloved llama and was delighted with Sheba.  They took her home with them.  I felt sad to see her go however Suzanne confirmed my thoughts on our situation, that a predator controlling llama needs to be without like company.  I was impressed when Suzanne walked in an slipped a halter on Sheba and then led her out to the driveway.  I had never tried to do this with Sheba, mostly because she was so evasive and we could not touch her.  The only time I got that close was when she was shorn and she was very good to handle.

When they arrived and I looked at the box they had on a trailer, I said she would not fit in that.  But they know llamas and assured me she would lie down in it and fit just fine.  And so it was.  They hooked up her halter to a long line that went through the front of the box.  Suzanne and I pushed on the hind end and Sheba - mostly willingly - got into the box.  The back end of the box was bolted on - literally, with a screw gun - and the trailer gate closed up.  And away they went.

So - maybe my gifted math children will read this and check on my calculations - the wood was $200 and I sold Sheba for $225.  I made $25; sort of.  I sold Sheba for what I paid for her.  There were some costs in between.  The wood will reduce our propane consumption with which we fuel our furnace.  We have piles of wood here but it needs to be split and dried.  It will cost us under $200 to rent a splitter for a weekend but we decided we don't have an entire weekend to dedicate to this activity right now.  And time is marching on.  Although it has now melted with the recent rain, that snowfall last week and the cold were a sudden reminder that winter is coming, if not here.

Millie has had a few busy nights, barking away at coyote traffic around us.  I hear her bark at various points and realise she is actually following them as they go around the house - at a distance but moving all the same.  There are dens in the mountainous rocks across the road.  This is not only the perfect spot for a cell tower - we get excellent reception - but for coyote denning.  They move along the creek across the road and then cross the road at the southern edge of our property, and move inward and to the Middle Field.  And Millie's barking follows that pathway.  And then there are the various criss-crossings across the property...

We have met with a fellow who is willing to hunt the coyotes.  It is a sport around here.  While fixing tea I overheard him showing hubby photos of mother and daughter and thought they were family photos.  When I joined them at the table he showed me the photos of the mother-daughter pair he had shot the week before. 

On sale was a catch and release coyote cage which we purchased.  We do not intend to release.  This is just one more way to remove some of the predator problem.  We need to develop this plan further and likely in conjunction with the hunter.  And somehow we need to keep our dogs out of it

Since the temperature rose and the sun came out we decided to ride the motorbikes to the gas station, to fill up for winter storage preparations.  Neither bike would start and time was required to charge each battery.  By late afternoon when the bikes started, the sun had been covered with cloud but we were going.  We had a nice ride to the nearest gas station, about twelve kilometres up the road and then back.  It was a bit chilly but nice to ride.  While I pulled together a dinner of leftovers and tucked up the critters for the night, hubby finished winterizing the bikes and moving them into the small stall in the Small Barn for their hibernation.

Ruby - or Ruby-Dooby - as I have been humming to her, is full of antics.  She and Millie do not really like the cat.  Poor Humphrey cat lives in the roof trusses.  Ruby-Dooby has climbed up the hay to the rafters several times in pursuit.  Humphrey walks across the trusses to the middle area where boards have been set down to allow the storage of junk.  In addition Humphrey is able to climb over the wall and through to the overhang where there is more hay stored.  Humphrey would like to cuddle; the dogs are not yet ready for that!

Electrocution may be what gets Ruby in the end.  She likes to chew wires, only this time it was the live wire of the rope light I had set up for the hens.  Fortunately she did not damage the timer, just the rope light.  That seasonal feeling from the rope light has now ended.  I have hooked up another light in a different location.  I'm sure the hens are confused.

What a long day filled with lots and lots of activity!

Friday 21 November 2014

First Snowfall

It was rather white and very pretty.  Then it got very blowy - okay, the wind was blowing everything to the horizontal.  And it was cold.  What a LION of an entry for winter's first snowfall!

So, we really were not ready.  I guess it's going to thaw next week to allow us to catch up.  We'll see.  I will prioritise once again.

I am very behind with my blog.  It has been very busy.  There are several new additions.

I found four Chanteclerc hens for sale.  They are just starting to lay.  I had been looking for this breed in particular as it was developed in Canada to tolerate our cold winters; the combs and wattles are small.  I wanted a few more hens since production is not quite enough for me to put a sign at the end of the driveway to advertise eggs for sale.

So the new girls arrived and there was some squawking.  Okay, there was a lot of squawking.  Before their arrival I read that they are not a pet kind of bird and were described as flighty.  This seems to be true, however one allowed me to pet it today.  The reds are nasty to them.  After all, the expression 'pecking order' was created by these creatures and they are demonstrating their expertise in this area.  I have put out a second feeder and moved it closer to the Chanteclers when there is an opportunity.

They are a Banty variety and instead of the white variety are dark in colouring with black and brown and red highlights.  These girls' beaks were not trimmed like the reds were and so they are sharp.  They are young, born in the spring and just starting to lay.  Their eggs are brown and at this point, tiny - especially when compared to the very large eggs of the reds.  An aside, there was a large double yoker laid by one of the reds last week.  Hubby enjoyed that for breakfast.

Oh, yeah, the snow.  Well, more of it arrived.  The sheep are still wandering down by the house and are foraging for grass.  That is, they are digging in the snow to find grass to munch on.  I am feeding hay.  I have been feeding more hay.  I ran through my calculations and I'm feeding more hay.  The sheep have been getting a bit of grain too to add some bonus nutrition for the breeding season.  Birch the new ram joined the flock last week.

There was the wild barn cat I brought home that was last seen in a tree, care of border collie Beau.  I was a little more strategic this time.  I have been watching kijiji and found a young barn cat, fixed, up-to-date on shots and free.  It turns out it is a rescue for euthanasia bound cats.  I was going to get two but the second one was not feeling well.  Humphrey meowed a bit on the way home and otherwise was an excellent passenger.  I had held on to the poultry crate I borrowed to get kitties home too.

At home we took Humphrey in the crate into the barn with the Maremmas.  Ruby went bonkers as there was an intruder in her barn!  Kitty ate some vittles.  He seemed quite hungry.  Ruby didn't bother too much until later and when I entered the barn Ruby was at the rafters on the stacked hay, peering over the wall into the overhang where the hay was stored on the other side of the wall. 

So, Humphrey remained calm and stayed setting atop the wall.  In a second he could dash into the hay on the other side and Ruby would not be able to follow.  Humphrey seemed to me to be quite content.  I was happy as Humphrey remained calm and in control and able to handle this HUGE puppy barking in his face.  And on the other side of the wall there is an abundance of mice and rats. 

Oh, and we picked up a side of beef today.  Local, happy cow.  We had some for dinner.  And last night we ate lamb.  All very good and good for us.  Not sure we can describe snow that way...

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Sheep, llamas, hiking

I am no longer taking the sheep out to pasture in the Middle Field.  Instead they are around the house and in the Front Field.  I am offering a half bale of hay each day but it is barely cleaned up; they prefer the green stuff even though the pickings are slim.

I have also been giving the sheep grain now for a few weeks.  This is called "flushing" and is done in anticipation of breeding.  The ram lamb too has been getting lots of grain.  He's a small ram lamb and growing.  I need him to be a big guy!  The ram, Birch, will go out with the girls this weekend. 

Some sheep farmers hold back their ewe lambs and do not breed them the first year.  We did this thirty years ago, holding them back until they were larger.  It is hard on them as they are not finished growing and they are not always good mothers that first year.  In the thirty years since I had sheep I notice that lambs gain faster.  My market lambs were big, earlier.  And so I have decided to breed the ewe lambs this year. 

When I look at the four yearlings from my flock purchase in March they are all doing very well.  They were all bred their first year.  They are large sheep now and looking really healthy.  Each of them had a single lamb and none of them presented as clueless mothers; they took care of their babies.  And so if I breed my ewe lambs and next year they look like these four, I will be very satisfied.  Also, I could have sold more lamb, so if I breed these four I will have more produce to sell.

Last night when I was putting the sheep to bed, Cotton, one of the yearlings from the original flock was very complacent.  Not in an unhealthy way, just that she was standing right in front of me and not moving away.  I stroked and poked her back and as she did not move.  I stroked and poked some more and talked to her.  I told her she was standing stock still like Millie does when she wants a hug.  Then I realised she was in heat and therefore extremely "affectionate".  I reached down and gave her a hug and told her she'd probably never let me do this again.  It was an amusing experience.

When the last market lambs left a week ago I separated the llamas.  I put Sheba in with Birch to keep him company and I left Henrietta in with the flock.  I posted an ad on kijiji to sell Sheba.  I have had one strange response.  I'll have to freshen up the ad.  In recently consulting with a llama breeder she felt that the lack of coyote interference on the part of the llamas is because there are two of them.  She emphasised that it is very much a personality thing, that not all llamas make good guardians.  As I described Henrietta and some of her antics she did express that those were characteristics that could make her a good guardian.  And so we are moving forward with the ongoing predator control project.

In another vein, some girlfriends came to visit on Friday and we went for a good hike on the property.  I had wanted to mark the trail in the bush while I could still see it.  So, we circumvented most of the Middle Field and entered the bush back near the cabin.  We explored some potential off shoot pathways that led us up a lovely hill scattered with chunks of the Canadian Shield.  We crossed the bottom of the valley and onto the north side of the middle promontory that runs east-west down the property.  We then came up the north side of the promontory and arrived back behind the barn.  Before heading in we hiked over and up onto Table Rock to take in the view there. 

It was lovely.  It is a superb time of year to hike.  All three dogs came with us.  This was the first time that Millie has come for a hike with me, other than a field checking expedition.  Beau could not get enough stick play, as usual.  Ruby really liked my one friend in particular and would sit nicely for her - after jumping on her first. 

After our hike we had a potluck lunch of soup, salad, chili, cheese, crackers...  We took our tea by the wood stove.  It was all quite lovely indeed.

Friday 7 November 2014

Fall & Daily Dog Joy


Although I want to write about Fall it has been snowing, which means Winter.  It has been a lovely Fall, a time of year which is my favourite.  Sightings of Reginald and his relatives is unusual and the bugs are very very few - except for deer ticks as I have been finding them on the Maremmas quite regularly.

The colours have been quite nice with lots of red this year.  It is a good time to see things, really see the land, as the leaves are released from the trees.  There are really interesting rock formations under the forest covering.  And some of the older trees are mammoth in size.  I wonder what they have seen, what stories they can tell.

Out in the Middle Field with the sheep, I busied myself collecting dead fall wood for kindling.  Collecting the bits along the edge of the field allowed me to keep an eye on the flock while cleaning up things and gathering fire starter for the wood stove.  I also discovered some junk.  In days of yore farmers burned and buried their garbage.  What I have found are a few spots where galvanised and other metal has been dumped, and glass.  I have gathered up some interesting glass bottles.  In addition there are also some shiny bits of blue and red glass, broken shards from other more handsome discards.  I have also found useful bits such as concrete blocks and terra cotta tubing that will make nice garden accents.

And other times I took Dot's fleece out with me as I work my way through preparing it for carding.  Also in these times I have been present for the dogs.  Ruby has required some correction to not chase the sheep.  This has worked out well.  All in all I have enjoyed the great outdoors of Fall and tried to make effective use of my time protecting the flock.


It was quite scrumptious.  We will not have as much lamb as originally planned.  I hadn't really planned when we would get some.  Last Saturday when I picked up lamb from the butcher I decided we should have some for dinner and so we became owners of one side.

Chops were what I selected.  They were huge.  We treated them like steak and carefully barbecued them in the same way.  Alongside I served up the last late harvest of broccoli and some homegrown red potatoes.  A lovely homegrown dinner, indeed!


I'm not sure who gets more joy out of a day, me or the dogs.  I realised today that Ruby is the first puppy that I have owned.  I have always had a mature dog and advised others to do the same.  Who would want a puppy?  They are so much work.  At twelve weeks she wasn't any work to house train.  She wasn't in the house and never will be in the house.  Her toileting habits are quite good for a barn dog.

Ruby's biggest challenge is that she jumps - a lot.  It's getting better, though.  After about the third jump she sits down and waits for you to pet her.  The jumping really is for joy:  the joy of the day, the joy of the moment, just joy.  She pounces when she hunts mice.  She curls up in a ball and sleeps wherever.  In the barn I caught her sleeping upside down in the middle of her pen on the Power Rangers blanket she pulled out of the garbage pile.  It's her blanket now, always in her pen.  Slowly the stuffing has been removed from the thin pieces of material.

It seems that the best thing to happen to Millie is Ruby's arrival.  Millie runs and plays like I've never seen her do before.  And Millie smiles and beams and glows with her own joy.  Millie has been showing some symptoms of Lyme disease, despite treatment, but the joy still shines through.  I put hay out for the sheep and Millie went and burrowed in the hay.  She slept in the mound.  Millie and Ruby play around the sheep as they munch away at the mound of hay.

We can learn a great deal watching our animals experience the joy of a second, a minute, an afternoon...