Woodworking for the Flock

Lately I’ve made time to repair or build a few items to make the sheep wrangling go more smoothly:  

The canvas sheep coats will now be sorted and out of the perpetual road dust in their new coat closet.

The young ewes had their hay bunker repaired and bars installed across the ends to discourage entry and soiling the feed.  

The new feed bunkers have a removable bench piece to expand seating during Saturday’s shearing open house.

Shearing Day Open House

Shearing on Prairie Plum Farm will be Saturday, March 18th starting around 10:00.  This is approximate as the shearer will be working another farm prior to mine.  Individuals interested in sheep, wool, showing kids how wool is harvested, and/ or in getting a taste of lamb balls are invited to join us.  I’ll be serving the lamb balls with choice of sweet and savory sauces as well as lasagne for lunch (in case the cute sheep put you off eating lamb).  It will be simple fare and I’m accepting donations if you choose to help cover the cost (=optional). The shearing will be in the barn (duh) and lunch will be in my unheated greenhouse, so dress appropriately.  A friend who spins will be demonstrating that skill.  Cleaned wool and yarn will be available for purchase as will fleeces fresh off the animals.  Come a bit early (9:00?) if you want to pick out your fleece while it still has its personality attached to it.

Directions: from the intersection of Hwys 43 and 44 in Mabel – go north about 1/10 mile on 43. Turn left on Co Rd 28/120th Street.  The farm (fire number 42443) will be on your right about 1.7 miles out.  Gray buildings and plastic covered greenhouse are key landmarks.

 

Fantastic Fleeces

I’ve become super excited about this coming season’s shearing!  This week I was out changing up coats on the flock to keep ahead of growing wool and got to see and feel their fleeces – up close and personal.  They so impressed me that I’ve decided to enter a number in the fleece competition at Shepherds’ Harvest fiber festival this May.  If all goes as planned, here is the line-up:

Sheep          Division                  Class                Breed

Olivia           Purebred                 Medium         Babydoll Southdown

Adrien         Purebred                 Medium         Babydoll Southdown

Becka          Colored                   Medium?       Babydoll Southdown X Finnsheep

Bro              White                      Medium?       Babydoll Southdown X Finnsheep

Below are a few close-up images of the wool beneath the coats.  Nina’s fleece is always longer than most, but she was only coated since November, so Olivia’s, who also trends longer, will be entered.  She’s been coated since last shearing.  The Finnsheep crosses may be fine enough that the judges will move them to the fine category.  There they would be up against Merinos who have very fine textured wool.  Since cleanliness is highly weighted, I’m thinking they should do fine anyway.   I am planning – time permitting – to post pictures/ weights of fleeces and offer for sale on this website.  The fleeces exhibited at Shepherds Harvest will be auctioned off there (unless I get an “offer I cannot refuse” 😉 ).  I am also planning a shearing day open house (March 18th) where newly shorn fleeces can be purchased.  My coat provider, Rocky, was telling me that it’s been a good wool growing year with some flocks growing into sizes of coats they’ve never had to use before.  Click on each image for a close up look at their crimp!

Nina’s back wool – luscious and long!

Adrien’s back wool – still nicely dark.

Bro’s back wool – perhaps 4″ long!

Felting Fun

It’s not ALL work with the farm.  I had a mini-vacation earlier this month to play with fleece.  I had long wanted to learn needle felting from Stacy Dreckhan of Beelighted fiber shop and Artify consignment art store in Zumbrota.  The opportunity presented itself and I made the voyage for a private lesson, no less!  It was great fun and I was quite satisfied with the resulting gnome.  The sheep is, I believe, a product of Nancy Ellison’s daughter, but is something I am interested in emulating. 

Stacy, the master felter.

New Projects Inside and Out

The woolly ones are often foremost on my mind as lambing time nears.  I’ve been doing some updates to their accommodations to keep them comfortable and healthy.  

The feed bunkers improve things in 3 ways – greater space (shoulder room) to feed grain, hay not eaten off of ground (less loss of fines and fewer parasites ingested), and, (when 4″ x 4″ fence grid in place), less neck wool contamination.  Although this is mainly for the new mothers  come late March – here the wethers are vying for some choice bits.  Bashful hangs out in the background.

Second feed bunker modified to prevent through passage in first use.

 

This shows the reroofing of a shed that was partially deconstructed a while back. The white metal was saved from remodel of my house.  At least a part of the non-pregnant sheep will have shelter here for the next couple of months – depending on how well the rams get along. …Or bratty Moonshadow vs. little Bucko.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lamb Names for 2017

As the ewes grow in girth – mostly from wool at this point – I’m envisioning their little lambs bouncing around the pens come late March.  This year all their names will begin with a “C” and I’m curious to know if readers of this post might have some additional options to present.  I’m needing a surplus for each gender since, from past experience, I know the sex ratio can vary considerably.  In 2014, for instance, I had 7 ewes out of 9 lambs!  (This was great for my flock growth, I might add.) I’ve listed the names I’ve come up with so far in the list below.  Some are barrowed from humans, some from plant names (surprise, surprise) and some are whimsical/nonsensical, but just sound fun.  I name the lambs in alphabetical order (mostly) and try to pair twins with the same starting letters. (I need memory aids at this point to remember who is who.) I’m expecting up to 20 lambs: 16 Babydoll and 4 3/4 Babydoll x 1/4 Finnsheep.

Girls’ names are in Red and Boys’ are in Blue

Caliope Calvin Calista Cambria Cameron Calla Candice Carla Carlton Caroline Carrie Carson Cary Cecelia Cecil Cedric Celeste Celosia Chandler Charles Charlotte Charisse Cindy Clayton Cletus Clovis Conrad Constance Craig Cray Crayola Crinoline Crypton Cusina Custer Curtis

Your additions???? 

Cassandra, Chief, Commander, Corie, Cynthie

 

 

 

 

 

Summer for Wildlife

It seems there’s been more than the usual census of wildlife showing up on the farm this summer.  In addition to the doe and her twins that frequent the lower pasture, previously an alfalfa field, there have been quite a few of what might be called fur bearing animals.  Here are a few I caught both literally and figuratively.

Woodchuck #1

Woodchuck #1

Pocket Gopher (small one)

Pocket Gopher (small one)

Possum in unbaited trap.

Possum in unbaited trap.

Raccoon captured with dogfood.

Raccoon captured with dogfood.


Possum INSIDE chicken safe house!

Possum INSIDE chicken safe house!

Maverick calf.

Maverick calf.

 

former PPF lambs hit the fair circuit

Michael Goulet and an assistant made a bit of a splash at the Benton County Fair this week showing Bella and Bliss in the March Lamb division.  This is the first time Babydolls had been exhibited at in that county’s fair. Bella landed a second place award and Bliss came in right behind her in third place. Congratulations to Michael for his showmanship and thanks to his mom, Connie, for the image!

Michael with Bliss and assistant with Bella in the show ring.

Michael with Bliss and assistant with Bella in the show ring.

Babydoll Sheep 4 Sale – SOLD OUT FOR 2016

As the season shifts into summer, I still need to do some tweaking of the fiber flock’s composition – selling some to enable the purchase of additonal blood lines. I have 3 ewe lambs from this year, one yearling ewe, and my ram from the previous 2 seasons for sale. They are all registered and all with RR genes for the Scrapies susceptibility gene site.  Ewes sell for $400 and ram for $300. Slight discount for multiple animal purchases.

Babette (rear left), Bashfull (not!) (front) and a glimpse of Hattie's rump (right rear).

Babette (rear left), Bashfull (not!) (front) and a glimpse of Hattie’s rump (right rear).

Babette and Bashful are twins born 3/19/16.

Babette – sale pending 7/12/16, Bashful will be kept at Prairie Plum Farm.

 

Bonita with her mom, Olivia.

Bonita with her mom, Olivia.

Bonita was born a twin on 4/3/16.  Super cute with distinctive buff-colored stockings. Sale pending 7/12/16.

 

Abigail has a clear face and smallish head.

Abigail has a clear face and smallish head.

Abigail was born a twin on 3/24/15.  She gave birth to a single this spring. Sale pending 7/12/16. 

 

Winslow shortly after shearing this spring.

Winslow shortly after shearing this spring.

Winslow bred 1/3 of my ewes last year and 2/3 this year and has  produced some very nice offspring.  He’s 23″ at the shoulder and is not aggressive.  

Interested parties should contact me at swiegrefe@sbcglobal.net or (715) 220-1183 – also read the page on reserving a lamb/adult sheep.  I’d love to help you start a flock or enrich one you already have!  Babydolls are the BEST!

 

Market Garden Planting Started

The traditional frost free date for this area is still a couple weeks away, but garden installation has already begun. The kohl crops are shown here protected from cabbage loopers by a row cover. Part of the process is improving the fertility and soil structure of the site. Organic dairy compost (Cowsmos) and some aged sheep manure haved been added to the beds. In the back is a tarp intended to keep weeds to a minimum. It provides heat to make them germinate, now if it will just stay in place so they will be killed by even higher temperatures under the black surface.

P16-0426c kohl crops in