I am watching the sky lighten out there and gearing up for another crazy day. The week just flew by! Tuesday was John’s surgery day of course, Thursday was the annual Reading RoundUp conference in Augusta (library and literacy), and then yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Dr. David Loertscher in Scarborough in a most lovely new school library (or Learning Commons as we are beginning to rename them again!). Last night a few of us girls had a long-standing dinner date which was extremely fun and a great stress-reliever (we always try and ask for a table in the corner because we laugh so much!). Today is: dump day, make chili for the auction tonight, and middle school auction night. Tomorrow is Hatchtown Farm Shearing day!
One week until April break. Today’s weather is looking pretty magnificent (60F), and tomorrow’s looks even nicer for the shearing. Spring might actually, almost be here!
Phew! All went well. The day began cold and bright, and is ending a little warmer and with a few clouds here and there. In between, we got a torrent of rolling giant-flaked snow followed by a little bit of rain, but we were already finished with the shearing and safely inside, gorging on a great potluck spread. Everyone who came did a lot of work, and before we got the meal going, Pam of Hatchtown Farm made an extremely lovely toast with some yummy Prosecco to our last shearing day.
I am sore and achy, but we got a lot done in a very short amount of time. Emily the shearer did a wonderful job as always, and we have 7 more beautiful fleeces to process or sell. I do not think I will ever run out of fleece! The only issue we had today was weather-related: Fern’s fleece (the big white ewe) was damp all the way through, a reminder of the downpours the other day. So the lovely ladies tagged the fleece and I already have it inside, spread out on the floor to dry. As the temperatures are due to go down in the next couple of days (down into the single digits tomorrow night, ouch), the heat in our floor should take good care of that. But as I sit here and look at these beautiful, lustrous locks (6″ average), I may just have to wash some up and do some spinning tomorrow!
And so goes the last sheep shearing at Ruit Farm North. Great excuse for a party. But I have plenty of other excuses that work just as well, no shortage there :*)
Not so officially, it sure doesn’t feel like it’s anywhere close to spring! I know that winter usually lasts quite a bit longer up here in New England than in many places. I don’t usually have too many beefs with Mother Nature, but this year I definitely have it in for this weather :*) Cold, cold, cold, snow, sleet, ice and cold. It feels like it will never end!
Whine, whine. We are stuck in a perpetual whine about the messiness and bitterness of it all. I am no better than the next person, although it just is, and I don’t usually let it get my blood pressure going. But trying to keep our 7 ewes dry this past 24 hours has been a bit of a challenge since our greenhouses are not as zaftig as they once were. Our lambing/kidding greenhouse is covered with a stand-in tarp which is missing most of its grommets on the south side, so we have tied it up as best we can. The rain looks like it has stopped for the moment, and I am thinking that it’s over… but oh, I forgot! It’s supposed to rain and snow on shearing day this Saturday. I can hardly wait.
Really? Cold, cold and more cold. Little bit of snow every few days which covers the ice in the driveway, so the footing is continually hazardous. But the sun this afternoon felt so wonderful! 28F was such a treat! And they are teasing us with the promise of 40F this Saturday :*) It really better happen. Particularly on the cusp of Daylight Savings.
I want to believe that we will warm up to spring. But unfortunately, nothing feels “normal” this year. Who knows? I am just hoping that the 22nd of March is fairly warm and clear so that our last shearing will not be a nightmare, but a celebration. Yes, our last shearing. I am very sad about this, but we need to be planning for our next great adventure, which involves working toward a licensed goat dairy. My bursitis and arthritis are not going to allow me to be moving flexnet fencing down in a sloped pasture this summer for the ewes. So we have been making some tough decisions this winter, and it looks like we will just be raising goats for the next few years. And planning for a cheese-making future. It is my passion, and now seems to be the time.
The big rains kept right on all last evening. It was insane because we knew that the temperatures were headed down below freezing, so it was not a great surprise when we got up this morning to find everything iced over. The wind must have been strong enough to prevent the ice from coating the trees, but it was something else on the ground!
But it was a gorgeous sunrise. I feel like I take the same photos over and over again, but the same view is always just a little different. The day is so clear that the light feels like we are dancing on the edge of Spring. But I doubt it. Just a little bit of a tease.
I took the opportunity of the warmth and the breeze to scrape as much bedding as I could out of the greenhouse the girls use. I love our donkey Jingle to pieces, but she will insist on standing in there and pooping to her heart’s content! During the bitter cold, it was frozen solid to the floor before morning, so I have to take these chances to get that out, along with the dirty and damp straw. I hope that the wind will dry the floor up a little, it’s not wet-wet, but it’s damp and some of the ice in the deep bedding has started to melt. Perhaps the wind will do its thing and help us out a bit before I put down new straw.
I cannot believe that we are just a month away from shearing. And after that it’s a hop and a skip right to kidding in early April. I must get my supplies in order… it will be here before we know it!
(Pippi and SnowPea showing off their growing bellies in the sunlight)
Along with the autumn inevitably come the trips to the butcher. We did not have as many lambs this year as usual, and the last three who were not sold at weaning, are ready to go. Before that happens, however, I have to decide if I am going to take their fleeces off to use in yarn, or leave it on and process them as pelts.
The disrepair of our greenhouses has pretty much decided this question for me. Salting and drying the pelts before sending off to the tannery has become very difficult (due to the tears in the greenhouse covers), so I had our favorite shearer Emily come yesterday.
Luckily, the weather cooperated with us and they were nice and dry when Emily got here. It was a quick visit, and the three boys were actually a lot cleaner than I expected, even though they have been eating hay and exposed to some muddy situations. My next job is to sort all the fleeces we have upstairs and make some decisions about what to make into yarn or roving, and which colors to combine or not. Then to send it off to the mill. I really need to get this under control, we can barely get from the top of the stairs to the bedroom up there!
I must have sprained my head before I sprained my ankle. Another notch in my klutz belt, I guess. Wednesday afternoon as I was going out to chores, I paused on the back steps as my husband called to me about something. When I got moving, I think I forgot that I was not on the bottom step, landed on the side of my left foot and went down. And so it goes. At least there are no broken bones!
Of course the sheep and goats hate a schedule change. By the time we got home from the hospital on Wednesday evening, they were not happy. Particularly not happy to see John instead of me. Well, most just were annoyed at the late dinner hour. SnowPea, however, had a tantrum and wouldn’t let her milk down for John. She is a funny girl. I figured that by the next morning she would be uncomfortable enough that she would let him milk her. Same story again. So by Thursday afternoon I talked John into driving me up to the greenhouse. SnowPea was a little alarmed at the crutches, but she was more than grateful to see me. She kissed me as she got onto the milk stand.
Foot is much better this morning. I am tired of sitting and anxious to get back to all the things I need to do. We had the shearer scheduled for this afternoon with our 3 ram lambs, but all the rain we have been having combined with my gimpiness has put that off. Luckily, the long range forecast for next weekend looks good. So Emily will join us just in the nick of time, as the boys go to the butcher the next morning. Phew! Usually it all comes together in the end, but sometimes the cliffhanger is a killer!
When we got out and got started with shearing a few weeks ago, I had my trusty camera in my bag (along with the CD&T serum and syringes to inoculate the sheep while they were in compromising positions, being held firmly by Emily). I got a few photos on it and realized that the battery was almost dead. So I asked our friend Chris to think about snapping a few, and she did a great job. She got these to me quite awhile ago and I keep meaning to share them. So here are the extra shearing day photos.
March is such a fickle month. I was very happy to be shearing mid-March instead of the third weekend in February. One presumes slightly warmer weather. The past day or two have proven us wrong. The temperatures are back down in the 20s during the day and teens – or possibly tonight – the single digits!!! AARGH! My naked girls who are 3 to 4 weeks away from lambing must be cold. The wind has come up and I had to add a few more layers to my chore clothes today. Brrr.
Luckily, we had help yesterday afternoon. Chris and Pam stayed long enough to help me get the shorn ewes into some sheep coats late in the day. I usually don’t re-coat the pregnant moms, but due to the weather we thought it might be prudent. I also usually keep my shorn girls penned for two days after shearing to let their lanolin come to the surface, which very effectively gives them a great wind-proofing. But pregnant sheep need to be moving around so they don’t have issues, and we had had to pen them since last Tuesday morning because of the bad weather, so I really wanted to let them out into the paddock to get moving again. And so it goes.
I am happy to have them shorn. I always worry that I can’t get a good butt-view with a big fleece on them. I also don’t dock tails as short as most do, so it’s really important that we get a good view of the hind quarters as lambing approaches. I am always afraid that one of the ewes will have a prolapse. We can deal with it if we catch it early enough, so it’s a great thing to be able to stay on top of it!
We got lucky and had a beautiful day for shearing. Much colder than the last few weeks, but nice and clear, and the ground was firm for the first half of the day so no one had to slog through mud. Because of the setup in the greenhouses, we ended up haltering each ewe, walking them across the paddock, and Emily sheared them in the milking greenhouse. It worked out very well, lots of great helpers came and by noon we were back in the house getting a nice meal together.
With only five ewes to be shorn, things moved along nicely. We had a lot of time to knit, laugh and visit. Our grandson came early in the afternoon and is staying with us tonight. I honestly don’t feel like doing much! I think it’s a good evening for being lazy and playing Thomas the Tank games :*)
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!