Sunday, September 25, 2011

September Sunshine

Once you have passed the equinox, you begin to appreciate sunshine in a different way, especially when it follows a string of cold, cloudy days. Gold is the predominant color of the flowers of this season, giving a sunlit field an intense, vibrant beauty.

Sheep apparently do not share this sentiment; they still head for the shade.

Sunflowers revel in the sunshine.

Bumble bees gather the last nectar of the season.

Tansies glow.

Baaa, humbug, says Gunnar, sunshine is too warm.

Pumpkins will soon turn orange.

Rutabagas seem to grow faster as the days grow cooler and shorter.

Blackberry bushes turn crimson.

As do apples.

Chickens prefer shade, but come out for corn.

Honeybees come out in force, drawn by the sweet nectar of September.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sheep Shearing

Sheep are generally sheared twice a year, in the fall and in the spring. I wanted to harvest their fleeces so that we could experiment with spinning and felting, and possibly use the wool in Marja's handwoven rugs. I wasn't sure if I could get a shearer out just for three sheep, so I bought a pair of hand shears and decided to give it a try.

A real shearer would have plopped Gunnar up on his rear, but I didn't feel like wresting with him while trying to learn how to use the handshears. Besides, my back was sore that day.

This is the sheep version of the "home haircut". I wound up making a lot of second cuts, but I gradually got the hang of it. I might have continued with the other two, but my sore back was protesting, so I decided to rest it for a couple of days before another round.

Gunnar was mostly white in full fleece, but his undercoat was full of dark spots.

The following day I got a call from Paul, a professional shearer with whom I had left a message earlier in the week. He was willing to come out for even a couple of sheep. I was surprised that he brought his entire shearing rig out. The motor powers the shears through the hanging drive cable .

Paul uses a hinged piece of plywood for a shearing floor and wears a pair of shearing slippers - which allow him to slide his feet easily against the sheep as he changes the sheep's positions.

He has been shearing sheep for over twenty years and makes it look easy. He's very calm and handles the sheep firmly, but gently.

Sigrid with her new haircut.

Sonja had a particularly beautiful fleece.

Gunnar got a clean buzz so he wouldn't look so out of place with his newly shorn flockmates. Paul had no trouble manhandling Gunnar either. You need a lot of upper body strength and most importantly, a good back, for this kind of work. It was a pleasure to watch.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn Begins

Goldenrod and Joe Pye weed are some of the last flowers to bloom. Our sheep don't care much for goldenrod, but they like the leaves of Joe Pye Weed. Hayfever sufferers often accuse goldenrod for their misery, but they malign this beautiful and innocent plant unjustly. Goldenrod is not wind pollinated; it does not disperse its pollen through the air like ragweed, and it does not cause hayfever. It is pollinated by bees, to which it pays good honey-making nectar for their services.

Our pumpkin patch. We had to wait until July before this piece of ground dried out and then I planted a row of pumpkin seeds as an experiment. If the frost holds off for another week or two I expect we will have a good harvest of pumpkins.

Trimming Gunnar's hooves. I think I'm going to get a "sheep chair" next summer to hold the sheep immobile. He wasn't the easiest customer to handle.

Jonathan had his first XC meet of the year and wound up with a blister on his heel from sand in his shoe.

Weighing sheep. Jonathan stood on the scale and Mik handed him the ewes. Sonja weighs 100# and Sigrid #70. We didn't try this with Gunnar as he probably outweighs Jonathan and is built like a 55 gallon drum.

A pair of eagles played over our house - likely a courtship flight. They are fully mature adults as you can see by the white heads and tails.

Our beanstalks climbed all over the teepees we set up and are now bearing beans.

Mik, Jeni and Jonathan checking out the young chickens in our moveable chicken pen. Hopefully these birds will be good sized by the end of October when we plan to harvest them. We got a real late start this year - the chicks didn't arrive until the third week of July.

This year we took two supers of honey from our hives - about 70#. Afterwards I returned the supers back in the beeyard so the bees can clean up the remaining honey out of the combs. When they are finished, even the stickiness will be gone.

Wax cappings from the frames. We use a hot knife to uncap the honey. The wax capping and honey fall into a bucket with a screen. About two gallons of honey drained off the cappings into the bucket. Once most of the honey has had a chance to drain off, I give the cappings back to the bees. I could probably have gotten another quart or so from them if I had heated it, but why bother? It's not going to waste.

Nothing like free honey to get a hive into action. According to many beekeeping books, putting wet frames out in the open can stimulate robbing, i.e. a more populous hive may invade another less robust hive and begin stealing their honey. Thus far I have not seen this happen. The safe way to return honey to bees would be to place the supers with their extracted frames on top of individual hives, underneath the hive covers, so that only the bees from one hive would get the honey.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wolf Point

Evening calm.

When Lake Superior rests, its peace is contagious.

Sandstone mosaics.


The warm glow of sunset...


and reddens....

and reddens...

and reddens.