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Archive for the ‘Sheep’ Category

As part of our 2010 cyber-reorganization, we are moving and consolidating our cyberhomes.  You can get to our website at http://www.fancyfibers.com or just http://fancyfibers.com.

Our Farm Blog is now on that site instead of in a separate place! 

Please continue to follow the news from the farm by going to our newly designed website (on a different hosting service), click on the latest blog post, and SUBSCRIBE!  There is an RSS feed link down at the bottom.  When I figure out how to add other feed readers, I’ll do that, too!

We hope you’ll check it out and watch our new site grow!

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It’s been a great week to be outside. Right now I’m looking at a cow who has wandered over from the pasture next door into the not-yet-being-used part of our land. That’s okay by me. Cows gotta eat, too. Here are a few other things I have seen in the last week.

My Blooming Peach Tree

Big Bertha, Before

Big Bertha, After

Bees Buzzing in the Willows

 If you stand underneath the willow tree in our front yard, it sounds like you are in the middle of a bee colony!

There is one more day of spring break, plus a weekend, and then it’s back to the school house until June. It can’t come soon enough for me! I have fiber in the barn that is calling my name!

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Danny-the-Shearer ROCKS!

WOW! I don’t even know where to start because today has been SUCH a whirlwind day!

Dalton and Daniel were here bright and early at 0645 this morning to set up our triangular-shaped catch pen for the large pasture gang.  This little bit of construction turned out to be so handy that we’re going to keep it intact for a while. When the time came, this catch pen made it easy for us to lead the move the animals a few at a time into the staging area, on to the barn, and then back out into the large pasture.  I should take pictures of this thing (something that I did not think to do when they were here before my first cup of coffee this morning).

Once Daniel and Dalton had gone on to school, and Ken and I had drank a couple of cups of ambition, the real work of getting ready began.  I cleaned out the Suburban and ran up to Farmersville Feed to buy some playwood. 

In the meantime, Ken moved some of the hay and straw from the barn into the muddy patches in the catch pen to try to keep the goats’ feet from getting so messed up.  Once the plywood was set down over it, it made a perfectly great pen!

Once Danny-the-shearer arrived, things really started to rock.  I was impressed just by his equipment! Dalton and Daniel arrived around 1:00, and our new friends Denise and Diane found their way back to the barn just as the shearing began!  [Are you picking up on all these “D” names? This is a total coincidence! Ken and I felt like we were temporarily in the wrong universe!]

Ken had already penned up the small pasture animals so we started with them. We even sheared our Nigerian Dwarf  so he would be nice and cool for our hot Texas summer!

It is an understatement to say it, but Danny made short work of shearing our 25 sheep and goats.  He sat them back on their hind ends, tossed them right and left and took off their fleece without even breathing hard. Before he let them go, he trimmed their hooves.

Daniel and Dalton were our animal wranglers for the day.

Denise and Diane bagged fiber, administered shots, and weighed the animals.

Ken fretted over the animals — I think the shearing and the shots and the man-handling was too much for him. 

I filled the syringes and tried to keep things running smoothly.

By 3:30, Danny had sheared our entire sheep and goat herd and trimmed all of their hooves.  It was a fantastically exciting day!

Be sure and check my Flickr account for all the photos!

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Today I saw something that I never thought I’d see: Our pond was completely frozen over.

We live in Texas. This is crazy! I was SO tempted to see how far I could walk out onto it, but…. Ken wouldn’t let me. Actually I chickened out. 

In the middle of being incredulous over the pond I noticed that all the sheep and goats were laying around sunning themselves except for the Border Leceisters. They were laying IN THE SHADE!!!!  Guess it was too “warm” for them in the sunshine on this wonderful 11 degree day! Check it out!

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We had a busy weekend here on the farm. Poor Ken has to go to work tomorrow to get some rest!  Here are the hightlights, with pictures!

Took Buddha and MudBud to the vets to get heartworm tested and shots. No picture for this adventure. They had never been off the farm before, and they were scared to death! It worked out okay, though. They got what they needed and we brought them home.  Public Service Announcement:  If you live anywhere near Greenville, please support Cause for Paws, a low cost cat and dog vaccination and spay/neuter clinic.  They are FANTASTIC! Moving on….

Stacked the Sudan hay that had been sitting in the livestock trailer into the barn.

Got the Suburban stuck in the mud.  Both ways.

Drove to Celeste and bought 30 more bales of hay.  Went to the feed store and bought straw (for bedding), sheep & goat feed, puppy food, and pallets to stack the additional hay on. Decided against trying to drive the Suburban/trailer back through the mud to unload the hay. Hope to have some sand delivered on Monday that, when spread, will help with the mud.

Drove to Merit to meet “Bear” at our friend Astrid T’s house.  Astrid operates a rescue home for livestock guard dogs, donkies, and who knows what else.  She also has a nice looking herd of angora goats, some horses, and about a million chickens, roosters, and guineas.  She has 50 acres, a lovely place, so we enjoy going to see her.  Bear is a recent rescue acquisition, and she’s willing to let him come live with us as soon as he has had his shots, is heartworm tested, and is fixed.  He’s so very sweet. He will be Buddha’s new companion in the big pasture.

Okay — I think that was it for Saturday, except I also cleaned some rabbit cages. (Use your imagination. I don’t think you really need a picture.)

Sunday, we started out with more cleaning up. Swept and raked the main barn. Cleaned more rabbit cages. Thought we should tidy up because……….. we were having company! Hank and Ty were coming to visit (sons of DeDe who is a former teaching colleague, and a friend of Stephanie’s who is also a good friend and former colleague of mine and who came with.)

Hank held a bunny, and petted some of the others.

Then Hank gathered eggs.

Then Hank petted the sheep. He petted some goats also, but he liked the sheep best.

The sheep also really liked Hank!

Ty was not in a very good mood except when he was chasing the chickens (we had to spoil his fun with that), so there are no pictures of Ty.

After our visitors left, we drove into McKinney, did a little shopping [not Christmas shopping, I’m afraid – vacumn cleaner and screen door shopping], ate a little supper, went to the grocery store, and got home just in time to feed.

Then it was time to start Mercy’s haircut. Why cut this poor rabbit’s hair in the winter, you ask? Well, rabbits groom themselves by licking their fur (like cats). When their fur is long, and loose, they ingest it. Unfortunately, rabbits can’t hack up a furball like cats can (gross, huh), so fur the the rabbits ingest can actually cause a blockage in their digestive system, and death. Mercy was showing me signs that she was ingesting too much of her fur, so rather than let her keep her winter coat, I took it! No worries, though. Mercy lives inside and will not get cold, and I have very special plans for her fur coat.

Last, but not least, I sat down to spin.  I’m spinning a very special yarn that I will knit into a luscious scarf — something I’ve been commissioned to do by a customer who needs it to give as a Christmas present.  No pictures here! I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise! On that note, I better get back to it!

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SATURDAY.  My friend Terri came back over today and we got right to work.  This time, I decided to try it the way she does, with scissors.  Unfortunately I had missed a fine detail when looking at her scissors.  They need to be the kind with a flat bottom, dressmaker’s shears (?) like this (left):Terri's scissors

Not office scissors, which unfortunately is what I brought home from school <sigh> which are shaped like this (right):office scissors

Note to self: all scissors are not created equal!  Just go to Michael’s and buy some decent scissors, and get one of those nice scissor sharpener things that Terri had while you’re there.

Not to be deterred, however, we wrangled some animals and worked away.  I did pull out the electric shears a time or two for the undersides.  Second note to self: Remind brother to build those leg extensions for your stand.  Terri’s stand is taller than mine, so I was doing way too much bending over.  Between sitting on an overturned Homer bucket, and using the electric shears, I was able to not totally destroy my back!

However, needless to say, Terri outpaced me by an entire half-a-goat.  She is a shearing demon!  By the time it was all said and done, we had sheared and trimmed hooves on 2 goats, and 1 sheep, and Terri had trimmed the hooves on 3 or 4 other goats.  Somewhere in there I lost count.

This, finally, is the last of the remedial shearing.  I’ve got more hooves to do, but thanks to her hints-tips-tricks and generous tutelage, I think I can manage that in the next couple of weeks.  Then there will be other exciting things to do. My good friend and mentor Cindy of Jacob’s Reward Farm is going to take a class next weekend on how to tell if your animals need worming.  I won’t go into the details, but Terri did say we could use her microscope.  Figure it out yourself from there!

And now, a look at some of our hard work!

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SATURDAY.  I’ve always heard that two heads are better than one.  It just stands to reason that two shearers are better than one also, and today my good friend and goatherd buddy Terri came out to Fancy Fibers Farm and proved the point.

Terri getting startedTerri has cashgora goats, somewhat different from my angoras, but not really all that much.  She’s a pro at shearing with scissors and with trimming hooves, my definite weak spot.  This morning she drove her family’s monster crew-cab duely truck from Blue Ridge to Farmersville to help a friend in need:  Me!  As previously reported, I have too many animals – those I recently acquired – that need shearing, hoof trimming, or both. 

In the back of Terri’s monstrous truck was her shearing stand which was a double bonus!  This meant we could work on two animals at one time, which is exactly what we did.  Ken toted her stand into the center aisle of the main barn, and then he and I set out to corner the goat that was at the top of the shearing list.

Catching these animals is always something of a battle. They are definitely not used to us and, since their pen has turned into a mud pit with all this rain, we aren’t the most nimble creatures outselves.  Terri manned the gate, and helped coerce this first animal onto the shearing stand.  If they could only understand English!  The goat was going to feel so much better after all this matted fleece came off!

Terri started in on her with a practiced hand.  Her hooves were a mess.  I watched while she patiently carved, explained, clipped, and shaped them back into some semblance of normalcy.  One of the hooves had pretty much Almost finished goatcompletely curved sideways; that one will take more trimming at regular intervals to get it back into its desired shape.

Then she started in on the fiber. Three hours later, we had a goat that was much happier with her lot in life. I used the electric shears to take off some belly mats that were close to the skin, and Terri did some finishing with her hand shears.  I had occasion to grab her shears a time or two also.  Boy are they sharp!  They put mine to shame, and mine are new! She told me that her husband, Neil, sharpens her shears after every time she uses them, and you could really tell it! Clearly I need to take a rasp to mine!

While Terri was working on my Angora doe, I worked on the Shetland sheep that we’ve taken to calling “Cousin It” after the Addams Family character.  This poor sheep had fleece dragging the ground that had matted into one continuous matted Shetlandblock.  Imagine your entire body covered in a gigantic web of dreadlocks, and you’ll sort of get the picture. Fortunately the mats did not go all the way to the skin, so once I found a place to start cutting, I could cut the matted fleece off and still leave some fiber on the sheep. It’s really too late to be shearing, so I was glad that the little guy could retain some of his own fleece.  I had visions of trying to get him into a sweatshirt….

This picture is the back of the sheep.  I started on the left side, then works around his hindquarters. The fleece came off in one great connected mat which is what you see trailing behind him. As soon as I cut the other side off, the dogs ran off with it for their tug-o-war game.  Terri helped me with the hooves on the sheep also, and then back into the big pasture he went!

While all this was going on, the Nygoras that live in this pasture were hanging around making a general nuisance of themselves.  Little did they know that they were next.  With Ken’s help (he just picks the smaller ones up and sets them down on the stand, we did four more sets of hooves before we called it quits.

Next weekend will be our last opportunity to shear those who still need it, and/or decide who is okay to leave as is for the winter.  While Cindy and Laurie mind the store at the Snowflake Bazaar, Terri will join me for one more round. As I’ve said many times, thank goodness for friends, especially those with shearing stands and super-sharp shears!

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