Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our Deer Fence

One morning I observed a deer near our pond.  The dogs were dozing by the house, so she slowly made her way toward the garden.  Deer enjoy gardens very much.

Uh, oh...what's that?  The doe took a few steps closer and then stamped one front foot, the way deer do when they are not sure what they are facing.  Savu has just opened his eyes, his ears are not quite fully erect yet.  What's that?

Boom! And they're off.  Once again our four-footed deer fence successfully prevents a garden invasion.


Marja was asked to sing the Finnish national anthem at a Midsummer event in Hancock, so she put on her national costume.

Two cats, two windows.

Lately Amanda has gotten into tie-dying baby clothes.

Sunday afternoon coffee with grandpa.

Soon to turn 95.

Leave it to a cat to find the most comfortable place to nap.

Grandpa checking out the pond.

June wildflowers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sheep Shearing 101

My regular shearer has left town, so I decided to buy electric shears and have a go at.  I watched some Youtube videos and bought a poster which shows exactly how to shear a sheep.  So here I am with sheep #1.  Jonathan is holding the poster so I can intermittently consult it. 

Once you  plop the sheep on its rear end, it becomes remarkably docile.  Supporting it with you feet and knees, you move it through several positions.  Theoretically you can take all the fleece off in in 47 strokes, which are called "blows".  The trick is to hold the cutting edge next to the skin so that you get all the wool off in once cut and avoid having to go back and make second cuts, which produce short fibers which are no good for spinning.

If you look closely at this picture you will notice red spots on the shearing board.  It is not sheep blood.  I nicked my finger tip on the first sheep and had to bandage it before continuing.  It was a hot day in the sun and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my back held out.  I was able to shear 4 ewes this way.

We moved the operation into the shade and Jonathan tried his hand at it.  Here he is shearing the belly wool.  You need to pull the skin with your left hand to smooth out the wrinkles to avoid nicking the sheep.  You also have to be careful around the udder and lower end of the  sheep.

After four ewes, I felt it was time to quit while I was ahead, so we sheared the rams standing in the head gate.  It was much cooler in the shade, but the mosquitos were thick, so I put on a long sleeved shirt.

This is much easier on the shearer, but I've always enjoyed new challenges, and would like to be able to shear sheep the way the pros do it

Gunnar getting his summer haircut.  We did not save any of the wool.  It was matted winter wool, full of hay and other debris - which also made it more difficult to shear.

Not much you can do with your head in a vise.

A pair of sandhill cranes checking out the shorn ewes and with their unshorn lambs.


Our kitchen window
Looks like it's going to be a nice day.

Rain this morning.
No problem when you're holding a bundle of sunshine.
Plenty of work to do indoors.
Hey, move over a little!

The brothers heading out for a nice easy ride.  Yeah, right...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Turning the Sheep onto Spring Pasture

Setting up the electric netting. 

Cowslips, marsh marigolds, take your pick.

New grass....Mmmmm!

Nothing better than fresh milk and spring grass.  Sonja has to eat for three.

There is something rewarding about watching your sheep grazing a new pasture.

Sheep are like people, always looking for the tastiest meal.  They move all around a new pasture, searching for the "candy" first.  The clover will disappear within a few days.  In a couple of weeks I will have to move the sheep again.

Gunnar's horns are well into their second curl.

Growing children.

Spring Slowly Arrives

Ilkka making sure the carpets are properly washed and hung to dry.

April 23, an inch of snow, nothing to write home about.
Spring snow actually seems to help the grass green up.

Hard to resist taking a picture of a rising full moon.
The lambs are very playful at this age and spend much time chasing each other around the pen.

Ilkka surveying his hunting grounds.

You know spring has arrived when the turtles come out of their hibernation from under the mud at the bottom of the pond and start sunning themselves.  I have a special fondness for turtles.  As a boy I spent many hours trying to catch them at "Hokey's Dam".  We would try to sneak up on them pushing our half waterlogged rafts with poles and then rushing to the edge of the raft to try to grab the turtles as they plopped off their sunning logs into the pond.  You can imagine that we often went home with wet shoes and pants.  Nobody wore shorts in those days - it would have been considered the height of sissification.

Goldfinches turn gold in the spring, their winter plumage is  drab olive.
Spring flowers breaking through last fall's leave litter.


Sigrid cleaning her newborn lamb. She was so big that I was sure she was carrying twins, but she only had one.

Once again  Helga birthed two healthy, strong lambs.

Spring snow is no problem when you have a good wool coat and rich ewe's milk to drink.

Ewes are very protective of their lambs and will butt other sheep (and other lambs) away.

Growing fast.

Meal time.  Lambs punch their mother's udder with their noses to turn on the the milk.  They wiggle their tails when they are getting milk.  Shepherds watch for that with newborn lambs.

All totaled we had seven lambs from our five ewes, three singles and two pairs of twins.

Sonja with her twins.