Anyway, let's start with our new herd sire, Lambchop. After Studley's demise, we were left without an intact ram. Lambchop is Arabella’s son and a SWEET boy with a gorgeous fleece like his mom!! I was very proactive in his upbringing…despite arguments to the contrary; I showered him with affection and treats. Still do as a matter of fact! When I prune the orchard, or thin the vegetable garden, he and his cronies get first dibs…and his cronies now include not only his two little wethers, but also an 8 year old watch-llama, Chester who has the most magnificent fleece ever!!...........
But I digress…I was talking about Lambchop. As I said before, he and his Mom, Arabella have THE most gorgeous fleeces you could ever want! Long fibers and very fine and soft….white, but not really. They were both spotted as lambs, so their fleeces now have a dusting of black fibers running through them. It’s a little known fact to non-sheep people that cute little lambs that are spotted RARELY hold onto their good looks.
We recently built a second hoop barn adjoining the first. Our flock has grown! Even though the number gets reduced every fall…..(when the “transformations” occur) for a good part of the year we have at least 40 sheep! Come December, we’ll be back down to about 20 sheep….and lots of fleeces!!
I’ve been spinning up a storm lately and have actually started selling my handspun yarn on my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/sheeptwochic?ref=hdr_shop_menu) and on our OSF website store and the farmers markets we have a booth at:; it's fun to see our sheep shaped into new creations!!!
This last year we also took a stab at raising hogs: Large Black Hogs….or as I call them our Farrah Fawcett hogs.
When they run around, they’re constantly tossing their heads back to get their ears out of the way so that they can see where they’re going!! Hilarious. All in all, they seem to be a gentle breed… When they were weaners (little guys and cuteeeee!!) we had them in a pasture and house next to our house. Predators being what they are, we needed to keep a close eye on them…and their antics.
Once they started getting bigger though, we (king’s "we" mind you!!) moved them out to the end of our property.
Over the last 4+ years, I’ve learned that I do NOT have a farmer’s headspace. It’s simply impossible for me to eat an animal that I’ve been interacting on a daily basis with. It ain’t gonna happen. Hence the hogs current location; I DO love pork…. I did recently go down to their pasture and take photos of them for posterity sake and then got carried away and made Christmas cards out of them…..but that’s somehow different in my head.
In any case, we’ve decided that this will be it for the hogs.
One of our other new projects has been adding on additional beehives out here. At the end of last year, we discovered that even though the bears had totally knocked down the beehive stand and hives that were out here from the previous owner, one of the hives was still active---even laying on its side in “ruins”!!. A neighbor came to our rescue, (thank you Gerald!) and righted the hive and amazingly its thriving! Along with this hive, we purchased two additional ones and jumped into beekeeping. Sort of. One of our farm family, Zen (and Kim) was our head beekeeper (and helper), with Bob as his 2nd in command. Since then Zen and Kim have moved back to the Montana area and it’s Bob and I now. Interesting stuff!!!
While Zen was still here though, we experienced bee swarms….FANTASTIC!! I was out in the orchard checking on the grapes (dreaming over the creation of grape jelly in addition to the asian pear and plum jellies!). Without a thought, I stuck my hand into the canopy of huge leaves towards a bunch of grapes to test them for ripeness and felt something moving in my hand. TOTALLY creepy feeling……When I bent down to look…YIKES!!
The swarm had a diameter of about 14+” and was about 20”tall. HUGE!!!
I freaked. At that time I hadn’t really been taking part at all in the bee world out on the farm. Even though I grew up with a father that somehow would get honeybees to land on his fingers and then gently pet them (as a kid, THAT was a trip to see!) I was keeping my safe distance, thank you very much!! I was able to catch up with our beekeepers and after several attempts they captured not only this swarm, but another one almost as large---also located in the vineyard area of our orchard. We eventually combined the two feral hives into one and they’re still hanging in there!
Which brings me to the other night. Zephyr and Maya, our two Maremmas, had been going ballistic with their barking for quite a while. It was late—Bob had already succumbed to the sleep world and I was starting to think in that direction ..Lazy….too lazy and cozy warm to go out into the freezing cold to calm the dogs down…who I figured were probably only buying into the tauntings of some deer out by our driveway anyway!!…..
With an increase in the intensity of the dog barking, I begrudgingly bundled up, grabbed my trusty old baseball bat (see the Nutria blog) and a couple of flashlights (again…the Nutria blog where I only had ONE flashlight!) and trudged on out. Now usually, if the dogs are just “spooking”— you can buy them off with a dog biscuit, praise for their vigilance and go on back inside. Not so this time. They DEFINITELY wanted me to come and see…and make right something that was wrong in their world. Oops.
To give a little perspective on the layout of the farm….to get to the orchard, you need to pass through the barnyard/dog area. A tractor-width corridor and the highway are on the opposite side of the orchard. The ends perpendicular to these are bordered by the duck area on one end and part of pasture 1 (which houses Lambchop, Chester and the two little wethers) and The Gate that the dogs took me to on the other.
I had gone about halfway back through the orchard when I heard that unworldly llama alarm loud and clear. So much for the “spooking” theory.
Looking over my shoulder, I made my way back to the house and woke Bob up. Amazingly, he jumped into action….got dressed and grabbed HIS two flashlights (now we have 4!). I grabbed my noisemaker 22 this time and left the bat. The llama had upped the ante.
Again the dogs anxiously drove us out to the far gate area in the orchard….flashlights shining…still nothing! Then I shone the light down onto the ground right outside the gate. A huge hole had been dug along most of the length of the gate….about 1-1/2 feet deep!!! Yikes. I asked Bob to shine his flashlight that’s almost as bright as a car’s headlight up onto the hillside again. This time …eyes. Just one set accompanied by dark. Bear. I shone my light up on him too and he took a few sideways steps…but he wasn’t going anywhere….. Asking Bob to keep the light on him, I cocked the pistol and shot a round off way to the left of the bear. Gotta love noisemakers!!! That little bear hasn’t been back since. Just to be safe though, Bob buried hog panel pieces in the bear hole and then backfilled it with gravel…
You can’t fault the bears for drooling over our honey!! The saga continues........