I plant sunflowers because I like the look of them. They do come in some stunning colours too, not just the ordinary bright yellow petals and dark, seeded centre. The ornamentals come in shades of rich reds, burgundy and pink petals.
And they can get tall. In our previous abode in the big city our neighbour's elementary school aged boy planted a bright yellow sunflower and it became a monster.
I do recall that on the same day I planted sunflowers in the Potager garden close to the house and then down the centre of the veggie garden. The veggie garden is clearly more fertile as depicted in the photo below. This demonstrates clearly the benefits of good quality sheep manure, more of which has been deposited on the vegetable garden than the Potager garden.
Apparently on an incredibly mild day, at the end of the third week in January, the chickens thought it was spring. Never mind that they are swimming. That is, it had been so mild and so suddenly that the hen coop was a big soggy puddle. It's a good thing they roost so as to get out of the muck. The nesting room remained dry. And rather than leave them cooped up - all puns intended - until noon, I had been letting them out a bit earlier so they could get out of the muck. They hang around inside the small barn, but then with spring like weather they wander wherever there is lawn to explore.
And they think it is spring. One day there were 7 eggs, while the next there were FIFTEEN! That is excellent at this time of year from the current hen flock of seventeen.
It's been a long haul to get to a terrific year of tanned hides. I collected hides in the first year and sent off a few. I sent 6 and got back 4, one of which was the most desirable. I've learned a lot...
I've learned that hides need LOTS of salt for about ten days. And then they need to just get dry. Laying them out on the driveway for a few days helps and turning them over allows the wool side to dry out too. A sunny day is perfect for this.
In our second year I had many many hides as the slaughterhouse was happy to give me any and all they had. Otherwise they are sent to the rendering plant. But, I ended up having to discard the high majority of them.
This year, our third year, I think I've got it. LOTS of salt and attention to drying. I have a little salt house. It's a metal garden shed that was here. I don't recommend metal but it suits my needs at this time. Now I actually salt the hides outside and at the end of the day roll them up and put them in the shed overnight. If the weather is not good I can salt them inside the shed but prefer to work outside on this.
Hides can sometimes require some trimming. Fortunately I spoke of this at the slaughterhouse and the butcher gave me a no longer needed, very very sharp, knife. This has worked very well.
Unlike when I lived close to the tannery, now I mail the hides to them. And they mail or courier the finished product back to me. This adds to the cost but is less expensive than driving half way across the province, once to take the hides and once to retrieve them. It takes a few months for tanning. And now, unlike when I was a teen, they can process the hides so that they are machine washable.
They are divine. I have received 21 now. There is a pile of more to go to the tannery. First though I need to sell a few of the 21. They make a lovely gift, perhaps for a wedding, Christmas or special occasion. There are many benefits to be gained from sheepskins and these include:
*A benefit of importance for babies and the elderly, there is no static electric charge possible and therefore no shocking
*Keeps you cool in summer as absorbs perspiration and then releases it seven times faster than synthetic fibre
*Naturally resistant to holding dirt and bacteria
*Reduces the likelihood of bed sores, since there is a reduced possibility of friction between the skin and bed linens, allowing the release of moisture from skin keeping it dry, free of chafing and irritation
*Keeps you warm, the wool holding onto your body heat yet the hide is breathable
*Luxurious feel and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
We keep the llama and the two Maremma dogs for the sole purpose of protecting the flock from coyotes. This has been successful. However both species have presented various challenges. It is often difficult for persons not familiar with these animals to understand how they fit into the sheep flock. The photo below explains this well. These animals live right in with the sheep.
|R to L: Henrietta the llama, Ruby and Millie - and a sheep I do not recognize from this angle|
Millie remains the queen of all. She gets first dibs on everything, including food, compost leavings, greeting guests, etc. Ruby and Henrietta are actually buddies. We have observed Henrietta initiating play with Ruby.
The Maremmas are busy at night, woofing up a storm, often under our bedroom window. Ear protection is provided to visitors to assist them is sleeping through the night. The bark to maintain territorial boundaries with the coyotes. The bark in response the coyote vocals, scents and sightings. And the dogs sleep a lot during the day.
Million Dollar Millie
Despite their original purpose, we have, of course, become attached to the livestock guardian animals - especially the dogs. It's a good thing because they have not been a cost effective purchase. That is, it would have cost less to allow the coyotes to steal the lambs. Millie has been very expensive, while Ruby has been 'normal'
|Millie awaiting the arrival of dinner with Fleur the bottle baby adorned with bells on a blue string, also awaiting dinner|
Millie arrived in June 2014. By fall we had her vetted for the first time in her life and learned she had Lyme Disease. Then we had her spayed. In December 2015 Millie underwent surgery to replace the cruciate ligament in her left hind leg. In the photo above she still has a bare spot near her left shoulder where the pain patch had been applied following her surgery. In January 2017 Millie underwent surgery to replace the cruciate ligament in her right hind leg. She is recovering well. She is now worth just under a million dollars - or so it seems.
Thievery and Treasures
I was leash walking Millie on the front lawn on a mild day and a neighbour stopped to chat. He asked if I had eggs, paid me, and said he'd pick them up later from on top of the generator. So, I carried on. I place the dozen eggs on top of the generator. I tie the carton snuggly but lightly with a bit of handspun or a ribbon to keep it closed. The eggs are so large the carton often does not close up.
I was off to work and left hubby a note about the eggs on top of the generator. He read the note. He saw the eggs.
The neighbour arrived. He and hubby noted that there were no eggs on top of the generator. Hubby found another dozen eggs in the fridge for the neighbour.
When I arrived home from work later in the evening all of this was reported to me. There was light snow overnight. While doing chores I had a look around. There, just inside the gate, was an empty egg carton. There was not a speck of shell to be found, the carton was smeared in egg and it was still tied with a bow.
Our in-house thief has a very shiny coat!
The thief also brings home treasures. I now take photos of what she brings home which I will not post here as my readers will not enjoy these. As happened last year, there has been a collection of calf body parts arrive across several weeks. We are pretty certain of a particular neighbour that butchers a calf for home use and plunks the leavings out behind his barn. The dogs smell these and investigate and eat and bring home bits and pieces. This is a dog thing, for sure, but moreso for a guardian animal they are cleaning up to dissuade coyote traffic.
The treasures have diminished quite a bit and we are glad for that.