A Tumble Creek Farm Ewe

A Tumble Creek Farm Ewe
One of many

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MY New Toy--An Oldie but a Goodie

Last night I brought home a new toy! I have searched for a few years now for the perfect one. Of course it had to fit into the budget and have the desired attachments. I asked friends if they knew anyone that had such a thing and reminded them frequently that I was still looking. It had to be in working order but did not have to be shiny new. Just before Thanksgiving a close family friend knew an old farmer who said he knew someone that may have one. Turned out I knew her too. We all loaded into my little car and went to look at it the day after Thanksgiving and I knew I would be taking it home when everyone got done talking. The farmer said that he would take it if I didn't--his comment under his breath was "This is a no-brainer," after it started right up. So I told the lady to consider it sold and then went back yesterday afternoon to put it all together and on the trailer and home with me. Wanna see it? Here is 'Old Blue' still on our trailer...

I have big plans for that $10 disk to turn my brown field to lush green. I know it's not pretty but they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this fits everything on the list, plus it's paid for! Working 'yard art' and already an offer if I ever want to sell. Can't beat that!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Frost is on the Pumpkin!

This morning upon waking it was 32.2 degrees with a heavy frost. Yep, fall is in the air.

A busy summer has come to an end. The Black Sheep Gathering was a very successful show for me with a Champion Ram and Champion Ewe this year. My ram was even selected to enter the final line-up of seven other rams for the Supreme Champion, but gave way to a gorgeous Merino ram from California. The weather was fabulous, the friends great fun, my daughter was here to help and share the memories, and BFLs moved around the country.

This year the pasture has definitely improved over last year. The flood irrigation is working better and the water is moving where it is supposed to now, thanks to a 10-yard dump truck load of dirt that I moved with my wheelbarrow to the places it needed to be. Next year's plan is to rototill some of the humps down to make the alleys wider so I don't have to move the water more than twice a day. And there is always overseeding and fertilizer to spread.

Then came the cousins from England for two weeks and that was a great vacation. We traveled around Oregon playing tourists to some places we had never been, saw the local fires from a distance after they had done most of their damage, lounged at home on the warm days and learned a new card game that they took home to teach their friends. Good times, and now the planning for our some-day trip starts.

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival was at the end of September in Canby, OR. It is a very nice show to end the season with at a beautiful, but older, fairgrounds--just the type you would see in a movie. The setting between the livestock barns and the vendor buildings is a large lawn studded with trees. This show has grown over the years in both vendors and visitors, and the sheep and goat shows are well worth watching. I always show lambs there and came home with a Reserve Grand Champion for my ewe lamb. I also have a vendor booth next to my sheep so folks can see the sheep and their fabulous products.

Last Friday was my scheduled appointment with my sheep and their LAI (laparoscopic artificial insemination) session. Next Friday the ram will go visit with those ewes and inform me if it was successful. I am looking forward to lambs already. Now to select names...

Good to get back on track with my blog again after missing summer. Hope everyone enjoyed theirs and I'll be talking to you again soon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The New Guardian Has Arrived!

Tumble Creek Farm welcomed the arrival of the new guardian llama last week. A new friend selected her out of a flock of approximately 80 llamas. This young female was born just before Christmas three years ago and was named Noel. I really tried to stick with that name as she would turn her head when I called her. It didn't seem to roll off the tongue easily so I altered it a bit to Noella. I also like the double 'll' as she is a 'll'ama.
  Irrigation season is in full swing and I have been moving the ewes to the front pasture in the mornings and back to the center field in the evenings. Noella joins right in and has been making friends. I added two new ewes to this group two days ago as I was weaning their lambs. She was not quite sure about this change but has been sticking with them as they wander the fenceline looking for their lambs.
  Black Sheep Gathering is fast approaching and the lambs are in school learning how to behave and walk on a lead. I use halters in the show ring because I don't like chasing an escapee. The sheep walk out nicely on their own after they have learned that the thing on their heads is okay and will be staying in place. Hope to see you all there in June.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Tribute to Belle

Belle entered our family within hours of her birth. Born at a friend's farm south of Bend on March 8, 2000, abandoned by her mother, still wet and forlorn, she arrived in a box with a towel under her. Lori had to go to work so asked if we would be able to take care of her. We had several sheep at this time but had never hand raised one. This was something new to learn so off we went to pick up a new lamb.
  When Lori had called that morning my two daughters and I had just finished breakfast before starting morning chores and school. My youngest and I went to the medical center parking lot and met Lori and the new lamb. The little brown head was up and perky with long legs tucked under her. Lori handed off the box and lamb, I drove the lamb home to be watched by the older daughter then off again in search of food for a newborn.
  Another friend raised goats so when she offered goat's milk we took a long drive to the north end of Redmond to pick up a gallon of fresh milk and another two gallons of frozen milk. A quick lesson on the initial needs of our new lamb and a phone call home to make sure the lamb was still with us and we are good to go.
  The call I made was the old-fashioned type on a land line. When my daughter answer the phone on the kitchen wall is was about 20 feet from where she had placed the lamb on the kitchen floor, still in the box, with a heat lamp to keep her warm and dry her. While we were connected, I got a play-by-play of her first attempt at standing. The lamb was well on her way to our hearts and taking over the kitchen.
  With the milk in hand we dashed home to start the feeding routine. The lamb was very willing to drink from a bottle and gulped it down in seconds. A nighttime feeding schedule was arranged with the youngest who was more than willing to adopt this new little brown lamb with the long legs.
  The original box didn't last long so she graduated to the laundry basket. The next phone call was to my husband to bring home a larger box, about the size that a new furnace comes in. During and after feedings the lamb was out of the box and roamed the kitchen. One evening my son's friend came over to see the lamb walking around and he noticed the white marking on the top of her head. He commented about the shape being like an upside-down bell and the name stuck--Belle. Later it was only visible after shearing.
  Exercise outside and introduction to the other sheep on our small farm became necessary. Belle was growing fast and needed to become a 'sheep' not another playmate for our dog. She ran and bounced around the lawn and followed my daughter everywhere, even through the pasture gate. The other sheep, Border Leicesters at that time, came to meet the stranger. Belle was a moorit Rambouillet-Romeldale and quite different because she thought she belonged in the house. When we left her in the pasture after the first few introductions she stood and cried.
   Friends came over and wanted to visit with Belle so she became the welcoming committee. Children loved to pet her and she would stand for hours for anyone who would admire her and give her love. When shearing time came and she had to be caught up it was a different story. Belle was very independent of the other sheep and didn't not want to be treated like one. After all, she was not a 'sheep'-in her mind. To be flipped, sheared, feet trimmed, and let go again was more than she could bear. How undignified! She felt better after the coat was on again to keep her wool clean.
  Spring was her favorite time of year when the dandelions were growing and blooming. They were her favorite food and she would nibble them from your hand if you found one on the lawn. Right up until the end and the grandchildren learned to pick them to feed to her, they were a special treat just for Belle. The Bluefaced Leicesters do not really care for them but Belle would come from the far end of the field just to enjoy one.
  As the years went by, she won ribbons at local sheep shows, her raw fleece was sold to handspinners or became roving, she welcomed fourth grade children on a field trip to the farm, taught my future daughter-in-law that sheep were not scary, produced beautiful brown lambs that found homes from New York to Washington state, and enjoyed life in her pasture east of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon.
   It was truly a sad day when we lost her late last week. She had been slowing down coming in at feeding time and was a bit stiff when she would first stand up after a nap. A time or two I thought I noticed that she would get close to a tree before she realized there was something she needed to go around. Belle always knew my voice and came to me when called as my daughter had long ago left for college. The grandchildren had picked the first of the season's dandelions early in the week which she enjoyed from their hands. Belle was with us for eleven good years and brought joy to us all. She is missed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Natural Colored Lambs Are Arriving!

More beautiful fleeces are arriving now. Three of the five ewes that were bred to my natural colored ram have produced three ewes and two rams. The last two should be any minute... One ewe is natural colored, the other white, both experienced with this sort of thing, having produced triplets last year. The rams will be available for sale when weaned.
  So far there are nine white lambs and five natural colored. Seven more ewes to go in theory. Of the five that were AI'd in November I am positive that two settled. These five will be sheared in two weeks and then I'll know for sure.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Finished Bag

The bag is finished!!! Knit from handspun Bluefaced Leicester and Border Leicester X yarns, then felted in a friend's washing machine, it is drying and will be ready for dance shoes by Friday night. I used a pattern from Felted Bags by Alice Underwood and Sue Parker. There were a few new techniques to learn but was a fun project. I made it a little larger than the directions to acomodate shoes, wallet, lip gloss, gum, etc... I also learned that you must use an old-style washing machine that has the agitator as mine is the new water-saver type that just twists intermittently. Not my favorite tool in the shed so I'm thinking of putting it on Craig's List and going back to old-style.
   Still waiting for lambs but the weather is mild so they will wait until we get freezing rain again. Ah, the life of the shepherd.

Monday, February 28, 2011

More Snow Mixed with Rain

Just when I was beginning to think winter was on the wane more snow will be arriving today. This is lambing season at Tumble Creek Farm so I went out to check the ewes. There are triplets on the lamb bar so I was planning to bring that in for cleaning and refilling. No lambs yet this morning so I grabbed the bucket and turned to face a gust of wind coming through the barn. Wet drops on my face say rain. So I got back into the house and my husband is standing at the living room window saying, "Wow, look at the snow blowing in." It was snowing on the north end of the house and raining on the south end. Interesting...
  We have 9 lambs now at a ratio of 5 rams to 4 ewes. Awaiting 10 ewes still. Five should be this month with the last 5 grouped in the first week of April from the last session of AI. The last ewe lamb was born Friday night when we had an Arctic Blast and the temp dipped to -3.5. All did very well and were cozy by their mom's sides or under the feeder nestled in the uneaten hay. Where is the camera when you want it?
  On today's schedule is bringing in the last of the bred ewes so they can share in the shelter of the barn. They also need shots and shearing so I am not just spoiling them.  Their condition will be checked and a shearing date set when the weather looks more promising. Within the next two weeks I will have more fresh fleeces to skirt and post for sale.
  The bag I have been knitting is finished and awaiting felting. Project for this afternoon. My washing machine is the new style that is a water-saver and does not have the agitator in the center. It is low and does a good job on the clothes but not good for felting. So the shoulders will get a workout today and I hope to have success. I used some Bluefaced Leicester yarn plus a few odd cleanings of fiber that were lurking on the racks in the studio. Most of the natural colored is from the neighbor that grazes my retired Border Leicester ewe which I know felts very well. My next project is a wine bottle cover with a leaf design in the center. This will go in the gift collection drawer along with the kid socks I make up for a last minute gift. I like quick projects that I can see the design grow and as a small space-taker. That way there isn't so much to clean up if I need the coffee table for company. Pictures will arrive shortly.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lambs and Wet Heavy Snow

So typical on the high desert for this time of year; a few warm days then an unexpected heavy snow. We woke up to the downspout dripping and thinking it was just a bit of rain. Outside was a mess with branches broken under the weight of the snow. There was only 7" but it felt like 12" when we started shoveling off the deck and cleared a path to the barn. My husband came home from work early and we spent the rest of the day with the chainsaw removing a very large limb hanging over the metal tool shed. It was so heavy with snow and near to breaking at the trunk. Another tree limb was hanging over the corner of the barn but we were able to shake the snow off that without cutting off the branch. When the emergencies were over he used the quad and blade to clear paths around the yard for me to walk easily for chores. The chickens would not come outside so watched from their doorway.
  There are now eight lambs from four ewes. One is a single ewe lamb and a set of triplet rams plus the two sets of twins. More are expected next week. The triplets and mom are doing fine after a tough week keeping her going. She was not interested in her food or water so I was drenching her with water and hand-offering hay. She would eat it that way but very slowly. Life is much better now and she is out of her jug and with friends again enjoying her lambs. I did put up the lamb bar and they almost have it figured out except they look at my knees first. It might have been cute and friendly had they been ewe lambs, but I don't want rams bouncing off my knees in a few months.
  The knitting project of the bag is coming along well. I am now in the top half and have put the two bottom pieces together. I'm not quite sure that the pattern is correct in the change from garter stitch on the lower half to knitting in the round as the texture has obviously changed. The bag will be felted when finished and the pattern does not show a picture of it prior to felting. I figure it will be an original either way so will carry on with the directions.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Waiting for Lambs

The WIND woke me this morning! The past week has been in the 50's and now the wind has come back in gusts. I was up checking the pregnant ewes in the barn this morning so missed the weather report. I'll just go back outside again and figure it out.
   The five bred ewes are now in their 'due' time as of yesterday according to the Pipestone Sheep Management Wheel. These were AI'd so should come in close together where as the pasture bred ewes will be sprinkled anywhere from now into the next month.
   Last night I started a new knitting project. The plan is to make a felted bag for a pair of dance shoes using some of my spun yarns that I have been saving. It requires four colors so I chose two grays and two pinks. I am not thrilled with it at this stage and could easily take it all apart and start over if the mood strikes. To be continued...
   One other project that has been ongoing is to blend mohair with my Bluefaced Leicester on my card and then make roving. The staple lengths are the same so I am looking forward to test how it spins up. A friend has requested this as she owns the mohair. I'd also like to dye some and see if it would work in the above felted bag project...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Warming Trend

While the East Coast is below zero, here on the West Coast we are having a warming trend. The next two weeks should be, as forecast, in the high 20s at night and up to 50+ for daytime temps. What a great time for me to start shearing the expecting ewes. Lambing should start here in early February so I started on the first eight yesterday. This ewe pictured is Emma and this is her second shearing. Some of the white flock is in the background happily chewing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy New Year!

Now that the holidays are over and my daughter is back to college, I will get back to life on the farm. We had a wonderful Christmas with the family and friends. There was a good snowfall in mid-December and it stayed for a long time. We were too busy inside to have any time to play outside on Christmas Day. The grandkids love to make snow angels and I find them all over the yard when they leave. The quail seem to find something under the trees and the sun shines pink and yellow on the mountains.
  Yesterday I sheared two of my ewe lambs that will be shown as yearlings this year. The pregnant ewes will be sheared in the next two weeks with lambing commencing in early February.
  This is a busy time of getting all the tools and equipment assembled, plus putting the lambing pens back together. They are separate panels that are put together to make 5 x 5 pens for the new family groups. When not in use they are taken apart and stand against the lamb creep fence.
  After the lambs are a week old I will put up a divider fence in my barn and between the last two 12' feeders for a creep. I have a creep gate with a man gate on one end so I don't have to jump over the fences in the barn. This was at the Black Sheep Gathering last year so just had to add it to my collection. I already had a six foot creep gate that I will now set up in the pasture to continue feeding the lambs after mid-April.
  We flood irrigate here so until the water comes on in April there is no drinking water in the fields unless I put it there. And the grass is just not up year-round to make it worth having them out there. Sometimes on sunny days I run the ewes out there for exercise and new scenery, but they always want to know what is going on in the barn.
  I am seeing a faint shade of green which is promising. This spring will bring tilling one small field and replanting. What will take the most time if picking up the rocks that the tiller will expose. This area is volcanic and we have about 6-12 inches of dirt on top of the rock shelf. Unless the rock comes up to the surface I don't go looking for it. Of course there are places where it is deeper soil and I am learning my field.
  The sheep think they are starving so I will bid you a good day. Enjoy!