Monday, September 22, 2014

September Already?

It's still too hot to be September in my opinion, but Mother Nature doesn't care what I think. Nevertheless, chores need doing and get done despite the toasty days.

I have a lot of fleece that needs to be washed and processed so it can be spun. I have a lot of trash cans turned compost bins cooking up some black gold in anticipation of planting time. And I have a lot of empty garden beds because summer killed everything.

On the bright side, there was this big, beautiful, orange dragonfly sunning itself this morning. That makes everything better, right?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Flaming Rope

This THING is a sheep. No really, it or rather she, is a sheepie who missed a shearing. The man who recently bought her and her companions asked me over to shear for him as I wanted the wool and he wanted bald sheep. It worked out.

Unfortunately, this poor girl had to wait two weeks after her buddies were sheared because I did something stupid. If you don't ever have to lasso anything, count yourself lucky. If you do ever have to lasso and you don't know what you're doing, remember rule number one. ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES. It seems simple really. Common sense even. But sometimes you might get really excited because you've got the rope and the sheep is like RIGHT THERE. And you know you can just wham bam lasso that sheep on the very first toss.

But trust me, a rope burn hurts. It can rip off your skin and leave you with blisters and pain for two weeks straight. You'll be real embarrassed about how stupid you were for tossing that lasso even if you did catch the sheep on the first try...

And if you have to shear four sheep after you've burned your hand with a rope and super-glued the fingers over to prevent further pain, you'll soon discover that no amount of dips in a bucket of ice water will stop the throbbing ache and soreness. You'll have to stop hand shearing at sheep number three.

And leave poor sheep number four for the day when your hand heals all up and you can actually use it again for regular day-to-day stuff like grasping a pen, typing on a keyboard, milking your goat or cow--or holding on to the steering wheel of your truck. Let's not even talk about sewing or handshakes. Ew handshakes with a rope-burned zombie apocalypse hand. Gross!

So two weeks later, sheepie number four was quite happy to see me. I think she remembered that I gave out free haircuts. She stood right there, still and eyeing me when I (with my gloves on) gently dropped the lasso around her neck. She didn't even move when I tied the other end to the post. She was a good girl the whole time and it only took me about 20 minutes to baldify her and return her back to her buddies.

In case you forget rule number one, I will be only so happy to remind you via the last picture I leave you with. I couldn't sleep the first night after I received this grievous wound. I had to take pain meds. I had to pop the blisters because it felt like my hand was going to explode. The blisters were ever so much worse than the picture I'll post, because the picture is already a week after the injury.

And I highly recommend keeping superglue handy as an instant bandage. It helped me so much. I wouldn't have been able to shear a single sheepie that day if I hadn't glued the heck out of myself that morning.

RULE #1 of Lassoing: Always wear your gloves.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thunder in July

Karma's first calf, a little bull the kids named Thunder, was born right on schedule on the 4th of July amidst early fireworks and gentle rainstorms. We were not present when he arrived, but had apparently just missed it as evidenced by the afterbirth. He is reddish brown, is very healthy and playful. He particularly enjoys the dog, Max. Each on one side of the corral, they play chase.

Since Karma had never been milked before, she has been going through some training to get over her anxiety. She and her little Thunder are in "milk jail" a method that worked for me in the past with goats. I put in a temporary small corral where both are kept beside the milking stall. Karma has never liked the stall and stanchion as she has had to undergo medical treatment in there, shots, tags, tattooing and she associates it with bad things. I tried to coax her into the milk stall with food and even sweet feed would not change her mind. As a last resort, I dropped a lasso around her neck that first time and heaved her in. Instead of closing the stanchion, I tied the lasso to a post and went to work milking. Thankfully, she doesn't dance around like her mother often did and her kicks thus far, are in slow motion and extremely gentle.

Thunder nursed soon after his birth and is a good eater. He is half mini and because Jerseys are bred to make more milk than one calf can take, it's easy to share the milking with him. He takes whatever he needs and I take whatever I need. Karma gets a massive bin of alfalfa, Bermuda and a bit of sweet feed and everyone seems content so far.

I feel as though I am relearning a new skill since every animal is different when it comes to milking. Karma has good front teats and Thunder prefers them, so he's used them and stretched them out a bit. The back teats are harder to milk out, so my guess is that he doesn't favor them as much. I figure he gets the front and I get the back until he can catch up some more.

Thunder is much more curious than Karma was as a calf. He will come right up to us and sniff us, checking out what's going on. Like any baby, he eats, sleeps, and poops a lot. Milking works best when he joins his mama in the stall as she is calmer having him where she can keep an eye on him.

It took a few days for Karma to get the milk routine down. Now she knows what the schedule is and I often find her waiting in the stall for me.

I don't use the stanchion because I think it frightens her. I come in from the front and gently loop the lasso over her horns and fasten it to the post as she eats. This keeps her in place and lets her move her head quite a bit but doesn't allow for her to leave.

She does have a little edema (swelling) in her navel. This began before the birth. I read several articles and it seems to be normal and should go away in a couple of weeks. It doesn't seem to bother her.

Having her in the stall each day has given me the opportunity to try the Dremel on her hooves. When she was a calf, I could easily lift her feet up and trim her hooves like a farrier would a horse. But now that she's full grown, she can simply kick her leg free of my hold and I am not strong enough to hold on. I have to say, the cordless Dremel is a little slower than the nippers, but it works well enough and is much more precise.

It's nice to have fresh cow milk again. I've made butter, pudding, cheese and smoothies. It's so delicious and rich--hard to describe to anyone who has not tried it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Karma Update

Cookie eyeing me as I snap a pic of her buddy's udder.
It takes nine months of gestation before a calf is born. By my calculations, Karma is due July 4th. I've been doing an udder watch each morning and her milk maker is getting bigger each day. It's interesting to me because her mother's udder was damaged and hung so much lower and lopsided. Karma's is close up to her body and more oval shaped. I suppose a person who doesn't enjoy milking can't appreciate my fascination with udders and teats.

Karma has taken her pregnancy well. She is ever the rascal and I don't think I'll come to completely trust her since she has horns and knows how to use them. She's whacked me with them a few times. As long as I carry a big stick/rake/shovel she seems to avoid me. I use the tools as a shield should she decide I need a good impaling. It should be interesting to see how I'm going to convince her that she needs to share some milk with me...

Since she was a calf, I have rubbed her sides and touched her udder and teats to get her used to the whole concept. She's not bothered by it. She'll occasionally look back at me and then continue eating. As long as I don't try to make her go anywhere or attempt to trim her hooves, she tolerates me.

Karma has a nice womanly figure and looks ready to pop at any moment. In the mornings, she tends to be lazing in the sun in the sandy part of her corral, chewing her cud. She's considerably wider and mellower. She allows me to pet on her more often than she did pre-pregnancy.

Her face is darkening which reminds me of her mother. In fact, if not for the horns, she would look a lot more like Gucci.

I hope I can be there when she gives borth since I missed her birth. Some animals seem to wait until I'm there as if they appreciate a helping hand if need be. Some are sneaky about it, and go .covert, hiding out and silently handling everything on their own. Here's hoping for a girl...

Three Sisters Garden, Summer 2014

I imagine summer in Tucson is like winter in states that get snow. It's oppressive, wearing away at a person until he or she wants to give up fighting and let nature do what it's going to do. In the garden I've had some success with the Three Sisters section. It's really only half a garden since only 5 rows are in use. 3 rows aren't done and one was just build and needs to set a while before it can be planted. The corn has done so well this year in height. In the years past the corn only grew 2 or 3 feet then died. There was poor pollination resulting in less than ten (really deliscious) kernels on each cob. IN the past I was planting hybrid corn. I can't say if that was the problem, or if the soil just wasn't right.

This year I'm hopeful for good corn. I walk the rows and pollinate by hand to give those kernels a kickstart. I planted every week, so that the crop might come in succession rather than all at once. Watering was done with mostly buries soaker hoses. The Three Sisters garden is only about 3 years old. It was originally going to be a pasture, but it never took hold.

This year's corn is all heirloom. It is 7 feet tall in some places and keeps going. I love to stand between the rows when the wind blows and listen to the whispering leaves. It's like a little hideout. No one can see me in there. It's shady and peaceful. It reminds me of my parents' garden in Phoenix when I was child.

Winter crops are still growing in the Three Sisters garden: brocolli, kale, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower. I don't know why! You'd think the heat would have offed them all by now. We like to make kale chips in the over with olive oil and parmesan. Tasty and healthy.

The zucchini is coming in. It's always amazing to me how you can turn your back on the zukes for a day and end up with gigantic monster squash. They too, remind me of the garden in Phoenix. My mom would slice the giant zukes thinly, batter and fry them. Mmmm. I think I'll do that with the one I picked today!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shearing and Spinning

So there's this man who has sheep not far from my hobby farm, and he's neighbors with the owner of the petting zoo where some of my goats and sheep are. He raises his sheep for meat and doesn't know what breed they are. Last year when he had his sheep sheared, he tossed the wool, having no use for it. So it was suggested that I go on over there this year and shear his sheep in exchange for the wool.

He has seven sheep and a baby lamb--likely more on the way. I managed to get three sheared in a few hours. That time included the lassoing (done by the owner) and herding (done by both of us and a reluctant dog) as well. It was a pleasant morning, with a nice breeze coming in from the west. I got to be in pasture under nice shady trees.

I'm not a fast shearer. The only experience I have is with my dearly departed Muffy and her daughter, Ginger. (Ginger lives at the petting zoo now.) I shear by hand with no electricity. Prior to having sheep, I swore I'd never have wool sheep because it seemed like such a pain in the behind. Now I find shearing very fun. There's a certain challenge to it, and the best part is, these are not my sheep so I get to take the wool and go.

Here are the fleeces set to dry after being soaked in Kookabura scour:

Here are a couple of close-ups of the fleeces:

Here is a basket of fleece pulled by hand into roving:

I don't know what kind of sheep his sheep are either, but their fleece is pretty nice for spinning. I have a lot of learning to do when it comes to this hobby, so it's nice to have some fleece to practice with.

For now, when people ask me what I make with all this, my answer is still yarn:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 4-H Poultry Projects

The kids all did 4-H this year. They stuck with poultry, which in my opinion, is a nice animal project because the birds are portable as opposed to steer or horse project which require trailering.

Christian's showbird from last year died unexpectedly on her nest box and Gabe's showbird was killed by some sort of feline--I suspect it was a bobcat but I have no proof. It could have been a feral cat, judging by the little footprints left in the frost.

Those deaths really put a damper on going forward with poultry.

Nevertheless, Christian decided to purchase a Creme Splash Dutch Cockerel from a breeder. Gabe was determined to show the standard birds we already had. He later found out that he had to do showmanship in order to do breed, so he purchased two bantam chicks from the feedstore. He was also given "Gertrude" an old buff Sebright, from the petting zoo we sometimes help out at. Gertrude was older and mellower, so she became his showmanship bird. The chicks became breed show birds.

Kyri bought a pair of Self-Blue Belgian d'Uccles from the same breeder Christian visited.

And so another year of 4H has come and gone. The kids love their leader, Irish, and she does a great job schooling them on breeds and what's needed to raise chickens. Here are the pictures of the boys and their birds from the Pima County Fair shows:

Farmer G with his Dark Cornish Rooster "Lil Devil" aka "Glare Jr"

Farmer C with his Dutch Rooster "Shimmer"

Farmer K with his rooster "Zeus"

Farmer G showing off his Showmanship ribbons he won with "Gertrude"