February snow

Clearing the driveway
Clearing the driveway

We didn’t get any snow last year, and thought we had escaped this winter as well. Until Thursday in the middle of the day, when the heavens opened and did not stop till Saturday night. So out here in the foothills we have about a foot and a half. Miraculously, a road grader came along and pushed a lot of snow to the side on Friday. Imagine that –plowing little old Killin road with only five or six houses along its entire length. On Sunday, the temperature rose above freezing and the melt began. But we have mountains of snow and it won’t be gone any time soon. John got the tractor out and scraped a track out to the road. We might make it to that 50th anniversary Beatles concert after all!

Bud thinks it is lots of fun.

Leaping in the snow
Leaping in the snow

Pre-Lambing health check

Each year we mark the calendar when we begin to see romance out on the sheep pasture.  This year, we made notes early in September.  Since ewes have a five-month pregnancy, this means we might see lambs early in February.  So it seemed time to do a health check of all the ladies.  We have to catch each one, put it on the grooming stand, give a shot, trim wool around the behind and the udder, and trim the toenails that grow over the pads of the hooves.  It is a good opportunity to see if we can detect impending birth–usually, a full udder means lambs in a week or two.  Of course, if we are going to all this trouble for the six adult ewes, we might as well catch the other 7 sheep and check them out as well.

I began  to scheme.  How to make this easier for them and for us?  Suz came to mind:  she is usually up for the opportunity to do a little sheep-tending.  With three people, two could catch and entice the sheep to the grooming stand and one could be ready to put the side rails on.  Once the sheep is secured on the stand, one person could give the shot and keep records [me], one could trim the feet[John], and one could shear the wool from the udder and back end [Suz].

Just as we finished lunch and began to summon the energy for sheep wrangling, a car drove up.  It was Ed, the neighbor, last seen around Christmas time when he offered to shoot the Nutria that punched two big holes in Bud’s back.  We heard shots the next day, but Ed reported that he did not think he hit any nutria.  However, we have not seen them again.  So maybe his shotgun was more effective that he thought.  This time, it appeared he stopped by to talk about the Nutria again.  Stories emerged over a cup of coffee:  the time he worked on a cattle ranch, the times when he “grayed out” testing planes over Vietnam.   It really was time for us to get busy if we wanted to be done by dark.  We said as much and Ed replied:  “I want to see what you are going to do.”

He followed us to the barn.  Watched as we brought the sheep in, closed the gates, built a movable “corral” around them with metal panels.  Watched as John and Suz caught the first sheep and brought her over to the stand.  A minute or two and he was in the stall.  By sheep three, he was trying to do the catching, helping to pull/push the sheep over to the stand.  I always had a comment about the wool, showing him the beautiful shiny locks under the dirty tips.

About 10 animals into it, Ed helped John catch a lamb, parted its wool and said “This looks like nice wool — now that I’m an expert!”  We all had a good laugh.  It was much easier and more fun to wrangle the sheep with a committee of four.

None of the udders were filled out.  Very little to indicate pregnancy.  That means lambs in March.  Stay tuned.

Molly the cat

It is amazing how quickly the rodents figure out that you don’t have a cat. Besides missing Oz, we were hearing a lot of scrabbling in the walls. So here she is on November 30th, the future rodent ranger of Wetland Wool.

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2013 pumpkin harvest

089October 20, 2013

What a grand pumpkin harvest it was! 132 pumpkins, according to Stefan. Many bags of hardy kiwis–a bumper crop for the very first time.

 

 

 

The harvest crew
The harvest crew

Goodbye Roberta and Carole–Fall 2013

It is time for grand old ladies of the flock to leave us. Some people keep their favorites until their teeth have fallen out and they starve, but we can’t. Their old bodies have delivered enough lambs, they have given us enough wonderful wool. Their daughters and grand-daughters are here to carry on for them. So off they go.

Two lovely ladies in their prime
Two lovely ladies in their prime

Chanterelles

Apparently our wet September followed by cold, dry October and November created the perfect conditions for chanterelle mushrooms in the woods up the cat-track. Thanksgiving foragers filled several bags!

Mushroom Mania
Mushroom Mania

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Farm-tending daughters

While we were in Australia, Tracy and Suz teamed up to take care of the farm. At some point, one of the sheep needed attention. Here is Suz, exhilarated or exhausted, or maybe a bit of both, remembering her sheep-tending days as a kid. We still rely on her instinctive understanding of the animals and often call her when we aren’t sure what is wrong.

It's always a little unpredictable
It’s always a little unpredictable

OZ the cat

We got Oz [Oscar] from the animal shelter when Tracy was 7, and now she is 28. He was barely six weeks old, could not yet eat cat food, and probably weighed half a pound. But he was a survivor.

Oz age 21

Needless to say, he lived a long and happy life here at Wetland Wool farm. We had hoped he would just pick his moment and wander off into the woods at the end his life, but it didn’t quite work out that way. When we took him to the vet in mid-September, his bony old body weighed just 6 pounds–a decade before, he weighed 15 and the vet called him “obese.” He’s buried next to Rob, in recognition of the 12 years they had together.

Leo birthdays at Tracy’s farm

Tracy decided to host the many people she knows with Leo birthdays. So out we went to her farm in Gresham. There is a sort of courtyard between the cookhouse and the cabins at the farm, so that is where Paul set up the music and lots of dancing and acrobatics occurred. Mike was the barbecue chef, and we had lots of good food. Friend Sharon came with us to see Tracy’s farm. We had fun exploring, meeting the horses, alpacas, sheep [Marigold], ducks, pigs, and goats–and of course the people!

Tracy is anchoring the pyramid on the right
Tracy is anchoring the pyramid on the right

 

 

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Fiber Exchange! June 2013

A year ago at the Northwest Spinner’s conference in Tacoma, I participated in the “fiber exchange”. You drop off a bag of un-spun fiber and you are given one from someone else. You communicate back and forth to figure out what you could make for the person whose fiber you got, and hopefully the person who got yours does the same. I was very fortunate that Cat Snyder picked up my fiber. I didn’t know Cat, but had seen some very creative and interesting knit creatures she had made. When she emailed me, she mentioned wanting to do a project using a technique called “hooking” [as in hooked rugs]. I thought of the lovely old rocker with its worn out pad. A year later, the lovely replacement pad arrived!

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Roberta gets a letter

Today Roberta [the sheep] received a letter in the mail!  It came from weaver Diane, who purchased Roberta’s 2013 fleece recently.  We also received an email from Janet, who purchased Ruth’s fleece.  Roberta and Ruth are our mother and daughter natural colored sheep.

Here they are much earlier in the spring, with their lambs.

Ruth is in front; she has more brown in her fleece.  Roberta has lovely shiny silver tones.
Ruth is in front; she has more brown in her fleece. Roberta has lovely shiny silver tones.

Here is the letter Roberta received!

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Robert and his offspring

Here are 12 of the 16 lambs, looking for their breakfast.  They are all strong and healthy and growing fast!  They are twice this size now.

  
Lambs at the end of March, about 4-6 weeks old.
Lambs at the end of March, about 4-6 weeks old.

And this handsome fellow is Robert, their dad, before the shearer got to him and his lovely locks were removed.

Robert Romney 2013
Robert Romney 2013