Thursday, February 26, 2009

First Babies

Looks like babies have begun! Fuzzy, a Tunis cross ewe who is an excellent mother, was calmly sitting in the pasture this morning with two little ewe lambs at her side. They had already been cleaned up & fed. It is so easy to tell if a new lamb has had its first meal because its little belly is no longer perfectly flat. These two little ones seem to be nursing nicely. Eric & I put Fuzzy & her lambs into my dyeing stall in the stable so that they can have a little peace & quiet. Fuzzy got lots of fresh hay, feed & water without competition from the other sheep in the pasture. And the lambs little umbilical cords that are still dangling down from their bellies are safe from curious chickens. Sort of makes you flinch thinking about that, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This has been a busy day. I've made dozens of trips in & out as I've had wool dyeing at the front of the house & roving & yarns dyeing in the stable. This photo is of some beautiful wool roving that I plan to spin into yarn as I pass time at the Upcountry History Museum this weekend. I also dyed wool locks in several different colors to card together for a pretty yarn. The museum is having an artisans' sale so I'm also getting some yarn dyed up for that. I love to see the dyed yarns hanging off of the front porch as they dry.

Pig Update: Everyone is eating well! The Hyatt has had a big function there for the last few days so we've gotten plenty of good kitchen prep scraps for the little ones. And they are still feasting on the dried corn that we got from Country Boy's back in the fall. The bigger pigs especially love when I pitch a few ears to them. Each pig grabs one & runs from the other pig, apparently oblivious to the fact that there are plenty of ears to go around. As I was dyeing in the stable today, I got tickled at the "crunch, crunch" of corn.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Does this count as sculpture?

The goats & sheep have been busy carving away at this latest round bale. They love to eat right into the center of the bale. Since the hay all pretty much looks & smells the same to me once you get beyond the outermost layer, I believe their preference has something to do with the fact
that we leave the baling twine on the bales & it might be easier to pull hay from the center. In another day or so, we'll have to go out & collapse the bale. As funny as it is to watch the goats poke their little heads deep into the core, it is also dangerous. We've got a friend who recently sent a ram off to the slaughterhouse after it was brain-injured by a collapsed bale.

This handsome fellow is Kermit. His mother was an adorable little Nubian dairy got. His daddy was an angora buck. He spends the summer in his slick black "Nubian" hair but each winter grows in gorgeous gray fluff & curls. He is beginning to shed out his winter coat which will come off in huge blanket-like chunks. Unfortunately, his lovely fiber is not worth fooling with as he is an intact buck who spends much of the fall & winter making himself stink to impress the girls!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Chores

This started out to be a cold morning. I had one duck egg frozen right to the ground. I spent some time whacking chunks of ice out of water troughs. It is funny to watch the sheep try to drink from a frozen trough. They try to put their faces into the water as usual, bump their noses & then try licking. When I break up ice on a trough I usually throw it to the side so the water doesn't refreeze as quickly as if I leave the ice floating around inside. Of course, the ducks don't care how cold the water is - they jump right in for a swim as soon as I walk away. Fortunately, many of our troughs are tall enough that the ducks can't jump in so everyone has fresh drinking water.

Once the sun came out everyone was happy. This bull had a ball tearing up a hay bale & throwing it on his back. There is a cow simply lounging on the other side of the bale eating rather than trying to impress us with her strength & enthusiasm.

I cleaned a bit in the chicken house, carefully shoveling chicken floor dirt into a large bin that will get hauled to the compost pile. Even though the birds are never contained in the chicken house, they love to congregate there, especially on windy days. They leave lots of nice organics on the floor.

I turned two compost piles as well as a new raised bed. I was pleased to see worms working everywhere. Fortunately the chickens were no where around to see those worms. They usually stay close to me when I work as sometimes I will flip over an old log or loose board. They go nuts scratching for beetles & worms. This time the chickens were busy going through some old hay I'd raked out of the barn.

Pig Update: I wanted to move the larger pigs to a different home. Since I was the only one here, I lined up a wall of a wheelbarrow, a feed barrel, a trash can & a sheet of wood paneling. I managed to lure the pigs with a bucket of scrambled eggs. The makeshift wall was enough to keep them from getting distracted & running from me instead of too their new digs. I had pulled their feed & water troughs out for a good washing so instead had placed an empty paper feed sack to pour their eggs on. They slurped up their eggs & then played a serious game of keep-away with the feed sack. It rattled & ripped as one would grab it & run. The other would grab it, get it out of his friend's mouth & then shake it until it tore. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to video this stunt. I lost track of one of the pigs as I knelt down for a good picture. Before I knew it, he had me by the knee. He did not break the skin but did leave a nice red reminder not to get distracted by their antics. They had the bag shredded in less time than it took me to wash their troughs!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You don't want a picture with this....

What better is there to do on a damp, dreary day than to clean a pig stall? This is the kind of task that is serious enough to warrant tying my hair back & putting on mucking boots. Pigs manage to generate just a special kind of muck that is wet, heavy & clings to the shovel when you try to sling it into the wheelbarrow. It is heavy work both to fill the wheelbarrow & then to empty it again in the compost pile. Our pigs are vegetarians simply because we choose to feed them only grains & vegetables but a pig is an omnivore. It will eat anything including other pigs.... Anyways, I add their stall cleanings to the compost pile along with the other good organics.

Because of the cold temperatures we'd been rotating the piglets between dirt-floored stalls in the stable. They love to wallow in the hay & dirt & have plenty of room to roam as these are large horse stalls. They do love to overturn their water trough to make mud baths but tend to contain that to one side of the stall just as they always use a far corner for their bathroom. We'd moved the pigs to a clean stall just over the weekend so I tackled their deserted stall today. I took a nice wheelbarrow load out to the compost pile. I dug back down to the original dirt floor and that is drying out. Tomorrow I'll rake some new "recycled hay" (what the sheep pull off of the bales but do not eat) in & move the pigs back as the nighttime temperatures are supposed to be in the 20's again. Before long the larger piglets can go outside to their new grassy pasture. The littlest guys will be a few weeks behind most likely but as long as we have several stalls with nice windows & skylights to alternate between, the pigs are happy.

Before I tackled the empty stall, I washed feed & water troughs for the piglets. They are always thrilled to see new food & water. And they are getting more interested in me. So much so that one of the larger piglets grabbed the back of my pant leg & gave it a good hard shake. Pigs will bite so I jumped. He jumped when I jumped, innocently returning to the fresh water. Guess I'll have to be on my toes as the pigs don't instinctively back away when I enter their stall.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is where a whole round bale goes....

Zeb & Gates, our oxen, share a pasture with a single ram. The ram actually had to be put in that pasture last breeding season for an attitude issue & now he is content with the big boys. The oxen can tear up a round bale in just a few days. They celebrate the arrival of a new bale by spearing it with their horns & pitching hay down their backs. They eat enthusiastically, only letting the ram sneak in after a few hours of eating like they'd never seen hay. Of course, they are never short on hay as we put in a new bale just as an old one is being finished off. But each new bale warrants lots of excitement. Hay tossing & eating are followed by dismantling the bale. For the next few days the oxen will lay in their bed of hay for hours at a time, standing up to eat, wandering over for a drink & then returning to claim their space which they carefully guard. The ram, who was quite a big shot among the other sheep, sneaks a bite in here & there or feeds off some other hay we put at the far end of the pasture & the corn I pitch over the fence. He has learned that the oxen rarely finish a whole bale before receiving a new one so he's content to eat at last week's hay while the oxen carry on somewhere else.

We had another stray dog show up yesterday. This one is a cute little fellow so we rescued him from potential problems with either the donkeys or our livestock guardian dogs in the back pastures. He is in a stall & we've placed a "dog found" sign at the side of the road. I've had three calls on missing dogs but none fit his description. One fellow did say he'd seen this dog wandering a few miles up the road from us a good week or so ago so who knows how long he has been on his own or if anyone is trying to find him.

Pig Update: The piglets are initially in a stall until turned out to pasture. The last piglets were happy to be indoors with the temperatures in the teens. These latest piglets are only 6 weeks old & are also content inside for a bit. We have found it funny that both groups love to lay right at the stall door but fly into a squealing panic the minute the door is open. The race to the far end of the stall looking utterly stunned that the door has been opened.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Latest Piggies

We picked up 3 more piglets on Saturday. We went almost to Georgia for them but we've gotten stock from this fellow before & they are good. He had agreed to meet us at his friend's feed mill. It was drizzling so we stood in the mill chatting with the owner & watching for a truck with pigs. The mill owner said, "Here he comes now." but all we saw was a Suburban pulling in. That was our fellow! He had the piglets in the back of the Suburban because he didn't want them to get wet in an open trailer. The three little ones were huddled down in a rubber water trough. We popped them in the kennel in the back of our truck, covered it tightly with a waterproof tarp & went on our way home. I had to laugh when he stopped at an intersection & the pig smell from the back of the truck drifted forward & caught up with us. I'm just imagining how much more fun it would have been to have them in the truck with us!

Of course, to welcome these new little ones I cooked a nice skillet full of scrambled eggs. The fellow we bought them from sent along a bit of what they are accustomed to eating so we mixed eggs with their regular food. They did not hesitate to try something new.
I did work on some felting today & managed to ply that ball of angora rabbit & merino wool. I plied outside as the ball was still damp enough to spray everything around me as I spun. Eve, the Ossabaw Island donkey, stared at me through most of the process but kindly did not touch my wheel. Sometimes she is just too nosy for her own good & after she opened my package earlier in the week I just can't trust her. I never got up from my wheel until I was done & ready to hide it all back inside the house.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Trying to Catch Up

This funny pot full of color is a ball of angora rabbit/merino wool spun as a single. I've dyed it by injecting color & also by soaking halves of the ball in a dye pot. I will need to ply it this afternoon but it will still be damp so I'll take the wheel outside as there is a steady shower on either side of the wheel as I ply this type of yarn.

I am trying to work on washing more of last year's fleeces as it will be shearing time before we know it. Al did shear Adolph, one little Shetland wether, last night. Shetland sheep are an old breed that have something called a "rise" which is the beginning of a natural shedding process. If a Shetland is not shorn before the rise, the fleece becomes matted together near the skin. Al mentioned that he felt he was a little late shearing this fellow but since we had temps in the teens last week we held off. I'd rather have a marginal fleece than a miserable sheep.

I've also begun some more felting. I love to felt & was inspired again by my week in the school. I've got another residency coming up so want to experiment with something a little different for the students to try. It is so much fun to fiddle around the house, stopping a few times a day to gather eggs!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


George is an angora buck that was born on our farm several years ago. He was one of twin boys. Our precious friend, Jerry, wanted an angora buck because she loved their horns & pretty curls so for her birthday we gave her George. After Jerry died last year, her husband asked if we'd like to have George back. Of course, we were glad to take him as he is just a big old baby. Jerry had a habit of putting collars & bells on many of her goats so George came home with his bell. I love to hear that bell when I am outside working!

This is a picture of George drinking out of the ducks' sprinkler. George has plenty of clean water troughs to drink out of but seems to think standing at the fence with his tongue out as the mist pours down over his head is special. Most goats abhor water but the puddles accumulating on George's forehead don't seem to bother him.

The muddiness in the picture is a good sign as we had almost a quarter of an inch of rain last night. The ducks like to keep this spot dirtied up but if it makes them happy we are pleased to run a little water for them. We use a special nursery mister so very little water is actually running but it gives the ducks another place to play. And, obviously, George thinks he's found a special spot.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25 Years!

Today is the 25th anniversary of the day that Al & I met. It is a date that we always celebrate in some small way or another. I was at American Grocery Restaurant dropping off their weekly duck egg order & mentioned our anniversary to Susan. She suggested that we come for dinner. We are so accustomed to walking in the kitchen door for deliveries that we parked in back, caught ourselves & entered through the front door. Dinner was simply fabulous! We were seated at the table with the window into the kitchen so had a great time watching preparation. The food was amazing & even more so when we think that our animals make a tiny contribution & that we know some of the other local farmers who provide their great products to the restaurant.

On a comical note, the photo is of Eve, our little Ossabaw Island donkey, opening my package. When I let Eric out the gate to go to work this morning, he mentioned that he had a present from Grace, a longtime friend of the children. He set it & another bag on the hood of the car so that I could take them into the house. Since I had dog food with me, I headed back to the pasture thinking the things on top the car should be fine. I returned to find that Eve had chomped a big hole into the side of my package. The bow was intact & the contents were fine. Grace had given me a sweet gift of goatsmilk soap & lotion from the store where she works. It is locally produced & she thought I would get a kick out of it. Little did she know it would be so appealing to Eve. The contents of the package smelled great but apparently not great enough that Eve was tempted to eat them. All was fine & I had an amusing story.

I did make a grand trip through town today. I had to deliver the finished piece of collaborative art to Brook Glenn Elementary where I was artist-in-residence last week. All of the fifth graders had a hand in the project either with carding, dyeing or felting. It turned out nicely & the students were tickled to see me in the building again. As long as I was in town, I ran into Country Boys to buy a new bluebird house. We had such fun watching the nesting birds last season that we decided to add another house or two.
And one of my errands in town was to take a few skeins of yarn to the post office. This was a custom order for a lady in Atlanta. It is a lovely mohair with some greens & blues & just a little accent of purples. I love to dye & it is a fun way to pay the hay bills.

Pig Update: The pigs are loving their eggs! They are getting about 4 or 5 pounds a day of scrambled eggs & today they had them with some snow peas. I'd found a bag of snow peas that had fallen under things in the freezer. They had that icy accumulation in them so I decided to just let the pigs have them for a treat. Of course, pigs seem to think anything is a treat but there is nothing like hot scrambled eggs melting frozen snow peas!

Monday, February 9, 2009


This has been a fairly productive day. Duke Power is still working at the barn - I believe it has been about an 8 hour job so far. They've dug up part of the barnyard, cut concrete next to the stable & have finally managed to find the short in the underground line. Last report was that they would come back tomorrow to repair the concrete. I'll be glad to get power back to the stable as that is where I prefer to do my dyeing. But I did manage to get some dyeing done!

The 5th graders did needlefelting as part of my residency with them. They had a great time with it but pretty well managed to deplete my supply of dyed wool. I pulled a Tunis fleece out of the barn that I did not intend to spin as the tips were matted. I trimmed the clumps off the tips with scissors, washed a pot full of fleece & divided it up into jars that I filled with dye. I steamed the dye jars in my roaster oven that I set up in the carport since there is no power to the stable. I now have lots of nicely colored wool drying & will throw it in my bag for my next school assignment.

I also wound several skeins of yarn so that I can get back to dyeing again tomorrow. I have an order to go out on Wednesday so will do that first thing in the morning. The customer simply asked for blue/green or something wild so this will be fun! I also got a photo today from a gentleman who ordered yarn right before Christmas. He lives in Vermont & had bought some of my yarn in the past. He crochets it into large blankets that are an amazing array of colors & textures.

I spent some time cleaning in the chicken house today. That is one of those chores that I don't mind doing even though the fresh bedding in the laying boxes will soon be pitched out on the floor. The birds have a few boxes that they like to throw the hay or straw out of & others that they leave intact, simply laying their eggs & acting like civilized birds. Right now the birds must be getting plenty of calcium in their diets as I haven't had problems with cracked shells as the eggs hit the wood in the bottom of the bare laying boxes. Chickens will eat egg shells which is a simple way of keeping their calcium up. I have been cooking plenty of excess eggs for the dogs & putting the shells back out for the chickens.

Laying has also increased dramatically! There are still lots & lots of those small pullet eggs but the number of extra large eggs is also increasing. All of the eggs are washed, weighed, sorted & packed by the end of each day so I can tell by how much time I spend over the sink that the birds are getting busy again.

Pig Update: Al got a call today that our next batch of piglets are weaned & ready to be picked up. We'll get them on Saturday. The current pigs are really growing out nicely. They've also become friendlier as I've had more time to visit with them. They are cautious though, allowing me to scratch them under the chin but never to put my hand over their head.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Back to "Normal"

Wilmer is now at a new host home, having been discharged from Shriners Hospital yesterday. My week-long residency is finished. It was a lot of fun & helps pay the hay bill. I am planning on concentrating this week on getting back to my regular routine which is actually not much of a routine but at least it is on my own time schedule!

Right now we only have partial electrical service to the barn so we are waiting for Duke Power to send a repair crew. Fortunately, the electricity to the electric fencing runs off a different line so the livestock should be staying home for the night. Most are quite cautious around the electric fence but if one animal proves to the others that the fence is not charged quite a few will decide to stray away. After the week-long power outage with the big ice storm a few years ago, we bought a generator for future electric fence emergencies. We are usually okay in the house without power because of the two fireplaces & a good sense of humor. Wandering livestock, however, is not funny.

Mike Rogers, our favorite feed supplier, had some "interesting" feed on sale today. It is a nice sweet feed mixed with citrus pulp. Al bought a ton of it in 50 pound bags. I didn't realize what it was but the citrus aroma was obvious in the very first bag I opened. The goats took only an instant to decide they were willing to try it after an initial suspicious sniff. It was even more attractive when the chickens & sheep decided they wanted to try it also.

Pig Update: Al & Eric worked much of the day on a new pig enclosure. The pigs love to dig so they will have two newly fenced pastures to work on soon. That way, when they make too much of a muddy mess out of one, they can simply be moved next door until the original pasture recovers. We've done this before & it cuts down on what a lot of people perceive as pig mess.