Sheep Shearing

May 8, 2014

I helped my mother with her sheep not too long ago. I worked alongside Christian, Mom’s hired hand. Jim Schaefer, the sheep shearer, and mom herself. Before we could start shearing of we needed to get them in the prepared place. Mom had long since mustered the sheep into the corral when Dad, Nathan, and I arrived, so we helped herd them across the road into the hay barn that was open to the south, for which were thankful later during shearing because it let in a nice cool breeze the whole two days we sheared.Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (10)

Before we got the sheep lined up, Jim had to set up his equipment and Mom had set up a sort of makeshift corral in order to separate the white sheep from the black because we put the respective colored fleeces in their own bags for sale. I would arrive later with the back up generator and a barrel to throw the poopy wool into and by the time I had arrived, Jim had sheared half bags worth of sheep’s wool. Christian’s job had been to stuff the fleeces into the bag, but I took over his job and he bounced back and forth to help Mom and me. (Mom was sorting and keeping the sheep lined up in the race for shearing.) what my job entailed was waiting for Jim to shear off the belly wool and I’d throw it onto a special pile for the belly wool (the black belly wool wasn’t sorted as such; it sells along with the good colored wool). The second step involved taking the wool with poopy clumps tangled up in it and throwing it into the rubbish barrel I had brought up for that very purpose, although, when Christian wasn’t sorting sheep, he’d throw them in for me because he had gloves on. Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (3) - Copy

When Jim was almost done shearing a sheep, I’d start rolling the fleece up under itself so when I held it up so it  wouldn’t fall apart on me. When Jim finally sheared the sheep clean, I’d gather it up and go toss it in a bag.

Let me tell you about how this bag business is set up. The bag itself is nearly eight feet tall and narrow with a width of a foot. Jim brought along a structure to hold the bag that consisted of a ladder connected to a hopper that the bag goes on which, in turn, is connected to a panel that is wired onto a hastily-built corral panel of dubious integrity. You climb up the ladder and shove the fleece into it and then you jump into the bag and start stomping on it so we could get as many fleeces as we could in the bag because Jim had only brought six bags with him. Although I would suggest only jumping in there when it is four fleeces full, because it’s hard enough as it is getting out of there as it is nearly impossible without once fleece in there. I also suggest using a stick of something to press the first three down because when I land down into the bag to shove it, the ladder slid away and I became trapped with the upper half of my body in the bag with the hoop pinning me against the panel. Thankfully, they were able to hear my cries for help over the radio and got me out of there. Jim got a good laugh out that!

There were times when jumping down into the bag that I’d forget to raise my arms high enough and I knocked them against the hoop going down and let me tell you, getting out of a narrow, eight-foot bag, while only using your arms that were hurting like heck wasn’t half as funny as it sounds. Needless to say, I didn’t forget but one or thrice.Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (9) - Copy

Pizza for lunch was a welcoming break to say the least. Cutting the sheep’s tails short proved interesting because Jim kept forgetting to hold onto every other sheep that needed its tail snipped; it was funny the first few times, but the novelty wore off rather quickly. After all of the shearing and snipping had been done, we moved the sheep and their lambs back across the road, leaving only the wethers slated for butcher and the rams behind to take up to the old homestead. We then began the arduous task of rolling the five and a half bags (one filled up halfway) to Jim’s pickup. It took two of us to stack all of the bags up on there and after that we loaded up Jim’s equipment and wished him on his merry way.

Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (7) - Copy

Two days of handling sheep fleece had made my hands all soft and ‘lotionally’ that weeks afterwards they were still like a babe’s bum and relieved that we were done with the sheep.

Stories by Dallas – May 2014

Moving across the Road!

Yesterday started early since my ewe lambs needed loading from our corral to the paddocks they will stay in for grazing.  I’d never loaded sheep out here before, so hadn’t a clue how it would go.  Incredibly, it went very smoothly!  They hopped right into the trailer and off we went.  They were hungry to be sure since they went straight to grazing once out of the trailer.

Then Dallas and I loaded a bit of hay in my little trailer pulled by the Gator, loaded necessary supplies, and fueled up.  Arriving at Tannachton Farm 35 minutes later, we unloaded the hay and checked on the ewe that had been entangled in the fence.  She is still alive and we cared for her best we could, but time will tell if she’ll ever get up again.  At least it was warm yesterday, but snow today!.

We set up a bit over a quarter of a mile of single strand polywire on the Bowyer Place and hung a Parmak energizer to fire it up, all the while calling the cows, so they would be up waiting and ready to move.  We then set up the crossing for the move across Cord Drive.  Amazingly, the cows and calves poured across the road to fresh grass.  I was short some Stafix step-in posts for the polywire, so once the cows were moved across and in the lot, we drove back to where some stored posts.  As we were collecting those, I noticed a black cow north of the timber, so once done, we circled ’round to check.  What a wonderful surprise!  Not just one cow having calved, but THREE right there together.  They had wisely selected a south-facing, gentle slope with good drainage.  Of course, we left them alone – I’ll move them later when their calves are older and well-bonded to their mommas.

My photo is misleading – we do not have grass that green right now and the cows were actually moving the other direction!  However, I didn’t have any time to take photos so this one is stolen from last spring.

Got done and headed back home arriving about 1pm.  Just in time to finish the meal for our departure at 4pm to Mexico, Missouri and Refuge Ministries.  Despite having some cooking disasters, I managed to show up with enough edible tucker to serve about 70 people!  Chicken-Rice-Vegetable casserole with cherry cobbler and pumpkin bread.  And, of course, sliced cucumbers with home-made ranch dressing.

Sheep go a’courtin’!

Cold and windy, but the rams needed to be out with the ewes this week and today was the best opportunity.  Dallas took my pickup to the seed plant and hooked on to the little trailer, then back down home for lunch, after which we drove to the Lamme farm to walk in then load the three rams – 1 horned Merino and 2 Dorsets.  They loaded without hesitation, then off to Tannachton Farm north and west of Purdin.  We unloaded the rams into the corral, then walked out to muster then ewes.

As we crossed the ditch and saw fence down we knew something was amiss and truly it was.  For whatever reason one of the older ewes was caught up in the electrified sheep netting and couldn’t move – really bad deal.  Dallas hurried back to turn off the electricity, then unwrapped her.  Thankfully, she is still alive and I hope she makes it.

Ewe caught in electric sheep netting.  We went back after sorting and helped her sit up again and I gave her a pep talk.  Hope she comes 'round!
Ewe caught in electric sheep netting. We went back after sorting and helped her sit up again and I gave her a pep talk. Hope she comes ’round!

The ewes and lambs would NOT cross the ditch to get to the corral and after 45 minutes or so of using our best ‘Bud Williams‘ techniques, I walked back to gather another sheep netting.  We set it up behind and around the sheep and kept moving it forward until they finally relented and joyfully bound down the slope and up towards the corral.  Oh, they can be SO frustratingly stubborn if it suits them.  Once across, they dutifully walked up to and into the corral – especially excited by the three rams inside!

Now to sort – well it mostly went okay for not having suitable sheep sorting facilities.  The reason for sorting is that there were several ewe lambs which i did not want to get bred (pregnant), so I wanted to sort them off and haul them home.  They can’t stay anywhere near the rams or absolutely everyone of them will breed.  Sheep are very fertile.  Pretty sure all the rams need to do is look at a ewe and she’ll get bred!

Too dark to unload the ewe lambs where I wanted them, so we offloaded into the corral at our house. Early in the morning, I’ll make the necessary chores to move them where they need to be.  All told, Dallas and I spent five hours on this project and still not done!

Dallas fed his grandpa’s pup and collected eggs.  SIX tonight.  Quite the improvement from getting 2 every other day just a few days ago.  We had picked up some alfalfa pellets and sunflowers to see if the higher protein would help with production.  Guess so!  Hooray!

Once inside, I had time to finish a couple loads of laundry, prepare and cook four cherry cobblers, make ranch dressing,  40 cups of rice, and ramped up the ingredient amounts for the chicken-rice casserole recipe so that it will serve 60 people at Refuge Ministries tomorrow evening.  The chicken has already been cooked and cubed and is sitting out to thaw along with cooked pumpkin.  Nathan says he’ll make the Pumpkin bread loaves for me tomorrow since my chores may run me close on getting the chicken-rice-vegetable casserole done before we leave.  Allen and Nathan vacuumed the main floor and upstairs for me tonight!  That was really a huge help!

Fences, Water tanks, and Corrals

What do farmers and ranchers do when they aren’t directly handling their stock?  To be sure maintenance of the infrastructure is at the top of the list!  Today was another day of such for me.  Dallas went with me, so with his help, we were able to accomplish more than twice what I can accomplish alone in the same amount of time.  Today was drizzly and muddy, but the temperature was mid-50s so that’s a good day to work outside.

It takes at least an hour to gather the materials and tools, plus loading a small bit of hay from the hayloft I’m cleaning out on the Buckman farm to haul up to my cows, fuel up, and head north.  The drive is about 35 minutes when the weather is good.  

We had a stretch of hi-tensile electric wire to repair which had been hit by deer and the wire had pulled through a gripple rendering this part of interior paddock fence completely useless.  So, the end post brace was reset and the wires reattached as well as patching the broken part.  All wires restretched with a gripple tensioning tool, then with the gate shut, electricity flowed freely to make the fence ‘hot.’

One water tank had lost its plug, so a couple days ago, I had to get creative and twisted a plug of hay and forced it through the hole.  Incredibly, this worked perfectly!  Absolutely no water came through.  However, I did replace the hay with the proper plug today.

It was still not quite dark, so we unloaded the polywire reel and some step in posts at the Bowyer barn (i’ll set them up next trip up), then went round the block (Cotton Road is FAR too muddy right now) to tie 2 inch by 3 inch welded wire 3 foot fence to four gates in the corral in preparation for mustering the sheep (hopefully tomorrow – weather permitting) and sorting off the ewe lambs I don’t want to get bred.

Even though it was all but dark, I wanted to get more steel posts pulled up and old barbed wire rolled up from around the old horse pond (small pond dug by horses way back in the old days).  So we managed about 7 posts and one strip of wire before the wind shifted and the rain started in serious and it was just flat out dark, dark, dark.   It’s a 35-40 minute drive home in the Gator, so we headed out.

Silverware

Today I am polishing the tarnish off two old serving spoons, both of which belonged to my Grandma Falconer, though I’ve used them for nigh onto 30 years.  I absolutely love using these spoons though one of them is a bit ragged on the edges (due to Grandma accidentally dropping into the garbage disposal a very long time ago).  However, I only use them at home since i don’t want to take the chance they’ll be accidentally left somewhere.

We actually have two sets of old silverware in protected boxes, but I’m beginning to think it is ridiculous to NEVER use them. Since antimicrobial aspects of silver are well known, maybe I need to start using them everyday.  Why take silver from a bottle, when we could eat with silver at every meal!  Well, maybe that’s not the way it works, but it would be fine to eat with elegance.

One might comment the extra work of needing to polish the pieces, but there is no reason to ever polish them!  Sure, if you want bling – they need polishing, but otherwise no need.  And to be sure, you can polish stainless steel until the cows come home and you’ll never have bling!

Many families have some amount of silverware, teapots, candles stashed in a drawer or attic.  Oftentimes, there is a bit of history or memories attached.  If you have silver pieces, what do you use them for?  or do you use them?  Why or why not?

Cheers!

tauna

The Art of Writing

A man once said that a writer was the only sort of person that he knew of that thought that he could accomplish more by doing nothing. In this I am not exempt, for more often enough when I would make any attempt at writing down a story, I would find myself staring down at a blank piece of paper, twiddling a pencil between my fingers, uncertainty plaguing my mind as I sought to create an epic that will survive the ages. This isn’t always a result of writers block, but rather a fear of, for lack of a better term, making it impalpable. To write it down would be to write it on stone, because when it’s all floating up in your head you can change it however you want it from adventure to romance to mystery to who knows what, but when you write it down it’s almost like it’s unchangeable. Even when you know that you can just start-up a new draft, there’s still a strange feeling of wrongness about it. Also it can just be hard to put your story into words. You can see it easily enough in your mind’s eye and go through the scenes as you please, but when you write it down you have to be descriptive, ascribing colourful details that bring your story to life, but too much detail and reading it will seem more like a chore having to bog through rather than a luxury, but neither can be lacking in detail and thus making your characters and story boring and engaging, unless, of course, you were trying to make a character or place strange and unknowable by purposely making it vague. Simply put you must moderate your detail to the context of the scene or character or even story. Take for example, if you were to write an adventure, you would add greater detail, an action scene, or if you were writing a children’s book you would write in detail the adorableness of a squirrel or caterpillar or kitten, and if you were writing a trashy romance novel you would write in detail about… trashy… romance… stuff. Anyway, I hope this blog entry will provide some insight into writing.

Dallas Powell

Backyard Greenhouse!

One of the interesting things we noticed in Scotland is that many homes had a small greenhouse in the backyard.  And usually a few laying hens as well. Melstadr, our first guest house in Shetland had both!  This was exciting since building a tiny greenhouse with some of the old house windows we have in storage – and we have a LOT – has been on the back burner of my mind for several years!  Considering the number of old windows we have, a large greenhouse could built, but that would not lend itself to mobility.  There are a lot of examples online from ragtag designs to really upscale – mine will fall in the middle somewhere since my carpentry skills definitely don’t lean towards upscale. The first step will be to take inventory of all the windows – types and sizes – then make a plan.  To make it more mobile, it could be built so that it will slide onto one of our existing trailers – that way it can be pulled onto a standard trailer and moved down the highway without being an extra wide load.

What would you do with a tiny backyard greenhouse if you had one?  Before starting to build, I need to figure out why I really need to!

Considerations:

1) Mobile or stationary.

2) Bedding plants or full on vertical gardening

3) Floor or no floor

4) Winter time use by laying hens (chooks) (no floor – build humus by laying straw, shavings, and throwing grain for hens to scratch and peck through – tilling the soil.

5) Outdoor  picnic area rather than for gardening or small gardening, but mostly sitting/reading space.

6) Heated or not (a small wood stove might be the right amount to knock off the chill – sized for the space)

7) Evaluate your climate and build accordingly – lots of info online for your particular area.

8) Decide, in advance what is economical to build and balance that against its need to pay for itself or to enhance quality of life and/or value of property – BUDGET, then build, accordingly.

melstadr
Melstadr Guest House, South Punds, Levenwick, Shetland Island, Scotland  http://www.shetlandvisitor.com/melstadr-self-catering

9) New materials or repurposed lumber and windows.

Lots of things to consider before embarking.  Before I start gathering up all the old windows and doors we have, I’ll take inventory of types and sizes and lay them out on paper first.  Too much work to physically gather them in advance.  Mostly, this project will depend on the weather.  If it is too cold this winter, there simply won’t be time or place to build.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Faith, Family, Farm

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