The farm house

The farm house

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The sun is deceiving. It's a beautiful sunny morning but you know it's absolutely frigid and you have no choice but to go outside. It is a bit cloudier than the day before and not as cold but still frigid.Two pairs of socks are a necessity, a hat, lined gloves and off I go.

Please pardon the screen...

My coat makes a crackling noise as I move towards the barn. My eyes begin to water and the wind bites at whatever is exposed. I am having trouble opening the latch to the barn because of my gloves but I know if I tough the metal with my bare hands, they will be cold for some time, almost numb. It opens and the sheep greet me with baas and a few jumps for their chins to be rubbed.  Their water is frozen solid. At least there isn't much left in the bottom of the bucket to thaw. I go outside and get their hay and notice how quickly I've been going through the large bale. The horses are the culprits here. They eat a lot. They also need more water to drink to digest all the extra hay they've been eating to stay warm. In fact with 12 sheep, I think the hay for 2 horses on a not so cold day would be the same.I currently have 4 horses.

I chuck some flakes of hay to the horses outside and by now my legs are starting to feel cold. I check their trough- they have enough water for today and the heater is working well. All is good until I see a rip in the horse blanket on the rescue horse. Better the blanket than his hide.

Next stop, chicken coop. Turn light on and check for casualties, check for food and I know their water always needs replacing in the morning.Check for eggs just in case and then proceed to house with all buckets and water dispensers in hand. Thaw buckets, fill with lukewarm water, trek back out to barn. This is far quicker to read about than achieve. This whole passage can take about 45 mins-not including any possible slips on ice or trouble cutting into new bales etc..

I now head in for breakfast and coffee or tea. I know I must make frequent trips to the coop in order to collect eggs before they freeze and to stir up the water bucket so they don't freeze solid.

Happiness/Comfort/Gratitude is: Warm, wool, hand-knit socks and hat.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

To Pedigree Or Not To Pedigree ? n..That Is The Question...

When I first purchased my two ewes, I didn't think much about pedigrees. I did buy registered because I wanted the real thing and it was like a certificate of authenticity. I wasn't sure where I was headed with sheep..Would 2 be enough? Do I want a flock? Are they going to cost me the earth to care for? etc...Now, I have 12 sheep, most of whom are registered stock, I feel it is an important element to my flock. It's not an elitist thing. I have ewes that provide wonderful fleece who are not registered.

The pedigree provides useful information such as who the parents are, the lineage, where the animal is from. Some of mine I can almost trace back to the original flock imported to Canada in 1982-it would cost me more to get the older abstract of the pedigree. Genetics are a funny thing and color is where it's at with this breed. So, sometimes as in the birth of Fiona and Fingal, you end up with some unexpected coloring and markings. I then turned to the pedigree to see how and where this came into play.

Another aspect of the pedigree is that it would provide a building block for a future generation if the number of sheep decreased again. Shetland sheep are no longer at risk in Canada but are still in the recovery stage of the American livestock conservancy.

So now, when I look at my sheep I see lovely, soft colored, fleeces who are also wonderful bits of history. Woolly time capsules.
What a messy bunch! These are the spring 2013 babies(except far left)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ah, Sunday...

Ah, Sunday... A few friends kid me as if I even know what day it is since I don't "work" outside the home. Ha, there are no sick days or calling in on a farm. Octavia's cast has been removed and she limps a little. She now must get accustomed to all the mobility again.

A friend who has recently bought a flock of sheep is now going through the lambing season. It's great fun anticipating the next generation. I think mine will be end of March lambs, so definitely Spring lamb-but not for eating.

This week, 2 passages caught my attention and made me realize how important it is that I maintain my current fiber flock. If you take a look at the Northern Lace Blog on my home page, there is a pdf you can download about assessing a fleece. Short and concise.  Here's what caught my eye :"Remember that the farmer has spent a lot of time and energy growing the fleece, and I think it is
only fair to pay him accordingly. The result of this is that local farmers will keep their very best
fleeces for me to have first refusal." Amen.

An article that someone shared on Facebook also lifted my spirits. Why Bother Knitting A Scarf..if you manage to read it, the entire article is basically how I think about much of my knitting. Also, no fiber farmers, no beautiful local fleece etc... Also a friend that I chatted with online said" I admire you for taking such a huge leap and doing what you love." People are taking notice. How cool is that? I've tried my hand at being a suit and now I deplore what they represent. Farming is a business: the clothing and hours are different and your business partners don't have opposable thumbs!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January blues..

What a beginning!! Freezing cold temperatures, gusting winds, snow...more cold.. I thought Hell was supposed to be hot?? It takes me 45 minutes in the morning to feed and water everyone as it takes time to thaw what's left in their waterers and buckets in order to provide fresh.

Octavia's cast should come off tomorrow and we'll see if she needs another. I hope not. Yesterday, Mr. Guinness pulled a fast one on me. He looked to be having a bout of colic. There was no way I was walking him all over as it is sheer ice under the snow: just like my driveway that I must cross a few times a day ever so surreptitiously in order to not end up with a sore butt or worse. What scared me the most was he threw himself down on the ground, head in the snow and his front leg straight up in the air and was no longer moving. Bear in mind, blowing snow and very cold temps. I yelled at him to get up and he just moved his head slightly and moaned.

I had to fill the trough of course and it was tricky due to everything freezing. Before I began that I texted the farm next door and asked if her hubby could possibly clear our driveway as the belt in our snow blower is broken and hubby is clearing the house next door and oh, could you please be on standby in case we need to winch a horse out of the pasture? Excellent neighbours I have indeed. Snow has been cleared and I can manage walking on some drifts without falling with water buckets in hand.

I gave Mr. Guinness some water from a sheep bucket but he decided to lay on it. I went into the house and prayed that I didn't need to call the vet today for an emergency. When I checked on him again, after I had regained feeling in my extremities, he was happily munching hay and wind sucking as usual. Although, he looked awful from rolling around in poop!

And now, plus temps announced for the weekend with rain to boot! This am I am very stuffed up and feeling very sluggish. It may be due to the fact that we ran out of fuel for the furnace and I had to wait for husband with truck to get works instead of paying extra for an emergency delivery. Our propane provider(fireplace in living room) sent a letter asking us to reduce consumption if we are not heating out home with this gas. Apparently there is a shortage. Wow! As much as we would like to go back to the "simpler" times , there is no way. We are so reliant on electricity and fuel Progress has certainly come with a cost. I will be researching where I can put a woodstove in this house for next year as I  am so tired of shelling out money for things like heating and electricity. We can't control the weather so we pay the price. As a small scale farmer. it is expensive as we need to provide water and shelter and sometimes heat or light for the animals- add that to the bill and then talk to me about quotas.

Here is a letter written by a fellow farmer :My letter to Kathleen Wynne:

It was with some interest that I watched your latest photo op on Sun News, down in Toronto handing out food baskets to people. Too bad that as the Agriculture Minister you don’t take more interest in farmers and how they are dealing with these harsh weather conditions. My husband and I live just outside of Kemptville, where we raise heritage pigs. Since before Christmas we have been dealing with frigid conditions, frozen water and trying to keep our animals warm. Farmers right across Ontario are dealing with the same thing but I haven’t heard anything from you on how you’re going to help us deal with this – how about a break on our hydro bills to offset the cost of running heat lamps and tank deicers? Or how about a gift card we can use at the feed store to help with the cost of having to feed our pigs extra to help them stay warm during this cold weather? Shame on you, Premier Wynne, for even daring to call yourself an Agriculture Minister when you have shown no interest whatsoever in the farmers of Ontario during this coldest of winters.

Food for thought!!