Udder Checks

We’re just a few short weeks away from our lambing window, but I’m already keeping an eye on the ewes’ udders and hoo-has.  There shouldn’t be anyone lambing earlier than May 4, but I feel most comfortable when I can get a really good feel for how everyone looks and how they are acting leading up to the event. This helps better notice subtle changes that occur so I know when I should be out every two hours and when I can get some sleep.

Of course, Susan and I have been plenty surprised by sheep and goats alike that show zero sign of impending labor and then are nursing their babes next time we check them!

Right now udders and teats are easy to see since the ladies have been sheared, and though there’s no significant “bagging up” of their udders, they are becoming just the slightest big bigger every day.

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They are getting wider and wider every day, too!

Occasionally just after feeding time I can sit with Piper and rest my head or hands on her belly and feel a little kicking in there.

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Wren’s udder hasn’t enlarged very much, but her teats have been getting fatter and more pronounced.

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This lady has been looking wide, but there’s not much udder or teat development.  This could mean that either she was bred a lot later than some of the others, or it could just be that she won’t bag up at all until she lambs.  Sometimes they do that.

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Just like any other mammal, no two sheep are alike, no two pregnancies are alike, no two lambings are alike.  Some get all dramatic, some are quiet and reserved. Some bag up huge way ahead of time, others never bag up at all.

There is one way they are all alike, however.

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They don’t like me checking out their backsides.  They are very suspicious of this activity, and will quickly turn and sniff at my face (or camera).

It’s going to be an interesting mix of lambs this year: our ram was a white Border Leicester.  Some of the ewes are colored Border Leicester.  Some of the ewes are white Cormo.  And yet other ewes are a mix of Cormo and Southdown. I can’t wait to see how the babies turn out!

As for lambcam (which I know everyone is waiting for!) we are waiting on some new equipment, but it will absolutely be working before the lambs come. We’ll let y’all know when it’s back up.

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Awesome Con 2014

We’ve been busy little bees around here lately!  Spring is exploding all around us and that means there is no shortage of work to be done, despite the allergies making us all feel like we were hit by a bus.

This past Saturday, though, we put it all aside to take the kids to Awesome Con, a convention in DC for fans of various Sci-Fi and Fantasy shows, books, etc.

Neither Paul nor I had ever been to one of these conventions, and it wasn’t something we ever thought we’d wind up doing, but when we found out that Billie Piper would be there and that we could get the girls’ pictures taken with her, we knew we needed to be there.  Her character on Doctor Who has always been everyone’s favorite.

It was a lot of walking, A LOT of waiting in lines, and way more fun than I’d expected it to be.  There were plenty of actors present from The Walking Dead, yet another show we are fans of, and what surprised me most was how integrated into the event they were.  Neve walked right up to the actress who played Sophia from the show and asked to take her picture (after I had sneaked one earlier, unsure if we were supposed to or not!).

Seeing all of the people dressed up as their favorite characters was also a lot of fun; Oona especially loved all of the Ana and Elsas there were from Frozen.   The girls are already asking to attend another convention in September in Richmond – a lot of the cast from The Walking Dead will be there, and it looks like the “meet and get your picture taken with an actor you really like” bug has hit them hard.

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The kids dressed up, too.  Emily was something or other from an Anime series that I know nothing about.  Oona was dressed as Draculaura from Monster High.   Katie was dressed a Rose from Doctor Who (in honor of meeting her), Brett was dressed as something called Deadpool.(as you can tell I don’t really know my Japanime or comics).  Neve went as Claudia from Warehouse 13.

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Emily stayed up the entire night before, working on sewing her costume. By HAND. She drafted the pattern herself and used very small, even stitches.  I am crazy proud of her.

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Maddie went as Amy Pond and Jessie went as a Dalek, both from Doctor Who.

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Finding people dressed as characters that compliment your own character is a big part of the fun.

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Melissa McBride, or Carol, from The Walking Dead. She’s so much prettier in person than on the show.  Carey Elwes (Westley from The Princess Bride) was in the next booth over.

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Oona found  Elsa and Ana to have her picture taken with.

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The Lannisters! Sadly I found out later that two more of the Lannister clan were there as well and I missed out on a pic of all of them together.

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Maddie found a very convincing Doctor.

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BUT. Everyone’s most treasured moment for the day was meeting Billie Piper. It was well worth the wait in line and the aggravation of dealing with a very disorganized convention to see the looks on my kids’ faces.  And hey! I got to sneak in the picture, too!

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She was everything they had hoped for: lovely and friendly.

Some kids are really into dolls. Some, barbies.  Some kids are into makeup and dating.

Mine are cosplaying fangirls.

And I kind of absolutely love it.

Unexpected Garden Guests

Today the weather was beautiful, and we decided to take our learning outside.

As in, I needed to take advantage of the weather and get some gardening done, and I needed some slave labor to help.

The girls pulled weeds and collected rocks while I got out the hoe and pulled up all the grass and weed cover from the garden beds.  I was working along at a pretty good clip, dragging the top layer of weeds and their roots out of the ground, keeping a steady pace so i wouldn’t think about how tired I was getting.

At one point in the back corner of the front garden I noticed a small amount of fuzz fly up at me, but figured it was either partially composted wool bits or some of the fuzzier chicken feathers.

Then I struck down again, and a HUGE clump of the ground came out with the hoe, flinging lots more fuzz, and prompting a loud squeaking, crying noise from the clump.

In that same instant, I saw what I thought was a mouse laying there, squirming about, and I yelped. No, I am not afraid of mice, but I was taken by surprise and had already been edge worried about those huge monster-sized furry spiders that live in the ground out there.

The girls came running, and by that time I realized that the little creature had longer ears than a mouse, and no tail.

All of that fuzz was rabbit fur, and that clump was a nest of babies; a FLUFFLE of bunnies, if you will.

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The clump.  The outside is composed of leaves, hay, and leaves.  The inner part is all rabbit fur.

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There were quite a lot of them crammed in there, and they all sought the heat of each other’s bodies as we cooed over them.

Emily informed us that rabbits do indeed build nests in the ground this way, and that if you find one you are supposed to gently put it back and leave it be.  The mother will be back at some point for them.

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So that is what we did, despite protests from the younger girls that we should keep them forever.

Either way, I am not thrilled about having rabbits in the garden, but leaving them seemed to be the only option I could live with.  I’ll worry about keeping the vegetables safe later.

 

Spring 2014 Shearing Party

Another shearing party, come and gone!

Yesterday’s super laid-back party may have been my favorite one yet (aside from the absence of several people that shearing just isn’t right without).

There was plenty of food, beautiful weather, a great new venue, and lots of friendly faces!  For us, not having too much going on to worry about made it easier to enjoy, and we were free to spend more time talking to the people that came out to see us.

Since we had fewer animals with us to shear, Emily was free to take it a little slower and entertained the crowd with anecdotes and explanations about the various fleece types and how the animals react to being sheared (hint: they really don’t).

Unfortunately, Susan was laid up in bed as-per doctor’s orders, but Mike brought her along via Skype and she got to see how we were doing at various points throughout the day. It was pretty strange not having her there, but we had some extra help in our good friend Trina, along with her daughter, Rachel, and Maddie brought her friend Hanna to help as well.

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Paul, Trina, and Rachel.  I couldn’t have managed without these three.

Because we had rented a pole barn in the county park there were plenty of people out who just happened by either walking their dogs (always a bit dicey for us) and riding horses (the park has quite a lot of trails for horseback riding).   It made for a pretty varied group.

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Susan sent samples of the newest Juniper Moon Farm yarn for everyone to try out.  (My favorite is Marlowe!)

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The kids were very entertained by the animals.  Emily made sure they got to pet them before and after their “haircuts”.

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Emily patiently answered questions, explaining that shearing doesn’t hurt the animals one bit, and that they are bred to relax when handled properly (key word: properly).  It’s something that those of us who see them every day know already, and forget that not everyone else is aware of it.

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I hope everyone who came out had as much fun as we did, and that we were able to answer everyone’s questions.

Trina took a lot of fabulous pictures all day and they are posted on the Facebook Shearing Party page, HERE.

 

Red Lady Skater

This weekend I was very excited to finally try out the Lady Skater Pattern from Kitschy Coo.

I had bought some red organic cotton from fabric.com specifically for it and couldn’t wait to cut into it.  I mean, seriously – a dress that’s made to be flattering out of easy-to-care-for and comfortable tee shirt fabric?

WIN!

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I am super happy with it.  I did have to take it down a few sizes from where I thought I should be.  Even after measuring it was too big the first go around.  I honestly could probably even take another inch out of the waist area, but right now I am just enjoying the swing of the skirt and the softness of the fabric.

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I haven’t hemmed the bottom yet; with knits like this it’s best to wear them a few times to let the fabric settle out where it’s going to fall before adding a hem.  Also, it was a pretty clean cut so I may not need to hem at all, if I don’t want it to be super “finished”.  It’s got a tiny bit of a natural “roll” right now that I am kind of digging.

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I really want to make one in every color now.  I think this one is going to look fantastic with my Shepherd sweater once it’s done, in all its creamy oatmeal-brownness!

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And shut up about my hair.  I know it’s waaay overdue and my roots like terrible.

I’ll get to it.

Eventually.

 

Duck, Duck, Goose!

This morning I got a call from the post office that our order of ducklings and goslings had arrived!

We all very excitedly got out of bed, got dressed and headed into town to pick them up.  We could hear them peeping as soon as we walked in, and it was an awfully cute ride home, with Neve nearly dying from the adorable.

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Yes, poultry comes in the mail like this!

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We got 3 Khaki Campbell ducklings, 3 Rouen ducklings (all female), and 3 Pilgrim goslings (1 male and 2 female).

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Female gosling.

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Rouen duckling.

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Male gosling.

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Khaki Campbell duckling.

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We set them up in the brooder and Agnes has been guarding them ever since.  Mostly she just stands and watches them; occasionally she’ll hiss if one of us tries to pass by, but she’s easily brushed aside.  All talk, that one. It will be fun to see how she handles them once they are grown!