I'm still here. Just way behind on keeping the blog updated.
I guess most people think summer is quiet and relaxing. It is. But, it can be busy too. Before summer is spring and it is very busy on a farm. Lambing took us from March to April. Then in May and June we were dealing with the veggie garden and its challenges. Now it is the end of July. And it has been very very hot. Yes, it's a drought and any farmer will tell you so.
So, here are some stories about what's been going on....
She landed on my head. It's good that I am usually wearing a hat. It was morning and perhaps she was not quite awake. I was putting out feed for the hens. She - a hen - was on the roost to my right while I was pouring out feed on my left and ahead of me. And she flew through the air and landed on my head.
No gifts were left behind, thankfully. I shook a bit. Or, maybe I knocked my hat off. Or, maybe she took my hat with her as she fell to the ground. In stride, I righted my hat and continued with my morning chores, thinking, "that's never happened before."
My friend ED dubbed Millie the "reluctant sheepdog" and this does fit - although I am reluctant to apply it so. Yet, truly it fits. However, finally, Millie is becoming the sheepdog we expected her to be when she arrived three years ago.
With consistency she is now happy and expects to return to the sheep flock area when she arrives from an outing. Recently, Millie and Ruby had returned to sleeping the day away under the house verandah. I put up electric fence around the house and this immediately stopped. It's hot and the dogs do find it cool during the day to sleep under the verandah. However, they are barn dogs and there are cool places near the barn, and they have found those cool places.
Ruby pushes the limits a bit further as she can jump out and into the barnyard as she desires. Yet, she knows I want her back in the barnyard. Lately when she gets out she avoids me, as if I don't see her there.
If I tell them to "Git with your sheep", they know what that means. Ruby will usually "git" by jumping over the fence, or going in through the gate I open. Millie knows now that the verandah is off limits. Yep, back in with the sheep is the place to be, and she heads straight there.
Coyotes we hear many evenings. The dogs bark a lot. They are not carrying on and getting out a lot. Ruby can and will jump out and in. Millie finally discovered the doggie door we made for her in the fence. She has learned to get out, safely, through this opening. This is much easier on her hips. She has not, however, learned about returning to the barnyard that way. Yet, often Millie will just stay in where she should be.
Usually, the dogs go out to the pasture with the sheep in the morning. About a half hour to one and a half hours later, the dogs return via the front of the house. They sleep all day. After five o'clock dinner they are more alert. After 7:30 / 8:00 o'clock snacks the dogs are awake and wary. Ruby will usually stay out in the pasture with the sheep. The sheep come in by nine. At night the dogs bark to ward off coyotes, etc. In the morning the dogs are waiting for me to feed them at eight. Millie leads the sheep out. Ruby goes out with Millie or follows the sheep. Henrietta the llama is very last. The dogs explore fields, follow scents and tracks, etc., and return at about 9:30. Then they sleep.
As we evolve so does our production. The first lamb skin rugs have been received from the tannery. This has been a learning experience. I had forgotten how much salt it takes to prep a skin. As a result, many have been discarded. I had a huge number as the butcher let me take as many as I wanted last year. Now I mostly have a pile of useless skins.
However the first lot back from the tannery is lovely. I sent six and they had to discard two. I received back four, with only one machine washable. There was "slippage" on several where the wool fell out - from insufficient salt in the preparation.
Another batch of six has been sent off for tanning. The process takes a minimum of four months. So, perhaps they will be back in time for Christmas sales.
The first spinning fleece ewes were clipped this spring. That is the ewes sired by the Birch the spinning ram. The income from their wool is about double that of the nicer non-spinning fleeced ewes I have. Still, spinners don't like to get dirty. It is a lot of work to prepare an entire fleece for spinning. There are small woollen mills around where I can get wool processed. Like the rugs though, this all takes some cash up front for processing. With each processing step the sale price goes up.
It's a lot of work to organize these processing steps. I'd rather just sell the whole fleece as it comes off of the sheep. Right now my house is full of fibre, mostly that I kept for myself. I don't know when I will ever spin all of this wool. And then there is this year's wool I am storing in the freezer. But soon I have to move it for the meat....
There's been a lot of that this year. It is a drought. Many areas around the farm are quite parched. Neighbours tell me their pasture is done. We are very fortunate that we have so much land that we have not used yet. That is, we are not grazing to capacity, so we have lots of eating left here.
The sheep are bothered by the heat too. They go out to pasture around eight in the morning. Recall that many coyote attacks occurred here in the morning, so I wait. I enjoy my morning coffee before taking the sheep out. The Maremmas go first and check the field. Henrietta comes up last. The sheep return to the barn about 9:30. They drink lots of water and if it's really hot they will rest in the shade in and around the barn.
Some of their best grazing time is in the evening when it cools down. I stopped going out and gathering them at eight in the evening as they were eating well. They bring themselves in by nine. After snacks at 7:30 or so, I take Ruby out to check the flock and she usually stays out with them. This gives me confidence in letting them come back in on their own.
We have enjoyed many visitors so far over the summer. Whether here for a weekend or an afternoon, I stop and enjoy the verandah. I don't get under the verandah like the Maremmas do. I sit up top in a comfy chair. And sometimes, as in the photo above, we enjoy an amazing sunset. Many hours too have I spent this summer sitting at my spinning wheel on the verandah. It is just lovely!