Monday, December 17, 2007
When the EverRanch site is down, so is our EverRanch email! You can also reach me via my Comcast account: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully, both won't be down at the same time! argh.
Friday, December 14, 2007
My faith is confirmed. We have such a generous outpouring of donations and bids in our Benefit Auction for the Black Sheep Creamery it is absolutely wonderful. There are donations for everything from skeins of yarn (beautiful handspun skeins at that!) to whole, prizewinning fleeces, lovingly processed rovings to a week long Artist's Retreat in a cabin on Whidbey Island - REALLY! I am officially hinting that there may be a loom or two in the auction by Monday :-)
Check this cabin out. It belongs to Petra and Adrian Martin and is in Bayview on Whidbey Island. Petra has decked it out as a Writer's Retreat and it could be a Retreat for any artist or anyone seeking some peace and quiet.
Wouldn't a week here be a wonderful Christmas present for the Artist in your life???
We have so many items in the auction, I'm going to split it up into 2 or 3 pages. I just need a little more time to do it. It should happen this weekend. My kids are coming next Thursday, so that time will be busy... and Great!
I took a little more time today, out with the sheep, scratching chins and ears, softly telling them how wonderful they are. For us, sheep are not just another piece of livestock. They have individual personalities and opinions. Our flock, like the dairy breeds, have been raised closely with people and tend to be curious and friendly. They all have names. I tried hard not to think of them having to struggle to stay afloat in ever rising water. Trying to keep that visualization out of my head.
Bid on the auction items. Pay it forward.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Here's Kibbles in front of "his" group of 8 ewes. Starting left, Pinky and Brain, Lindy, Bossie, Hortense behind, Tucker, Freckles and Charcoal. Can you see Lindy and Charcoal smirking?
Bubba (at right) keeps watch on 4 of his ewes. At left is Bibb, the first to succumb, then Bits, Niblet and in front, Lou. Niblet is a hold out, the other 3 will have Leicester-Gotland-Finn lambs.
Electra is looking smug after teaching Bubba a thing or two about Shetland ewes. She was our backup ewe for AI, and wasn't needed. Since she was synchronized with the other ewes, she's cycling right on time.
Buddy has a group of 5 Shetland ewes. Only two of these were AI'd with Gotland semen - Snowflake and Asa. So far, they've given Buddy the cold shoulder. From left to right are Snowflake, Emmie, Buddy, Val, Asa (lying down) and Bessie.
When I get past the next couple of days, I'll stop looking at the emptiness of the glass - it's 1/3 empty now! - and start looking at how full it is. ;-)
Friday, November 30, 2007
One of the things I've had more time for since retiring, is cooking. I used to cook a lot. Then work and dogs and other busy-ness stopped most of my kitchen experiments. (So true, I seldom follow a recipe exactly.)
So here's the sharing part! Recently I made a dinner and a breakfast with apples. I think they're too good not to share. :-)
Sausage, apples and squash.
This is a classic combination.
(We also get LOTS of winter squash with our CSA shares - delicious!)
Single serving - or scale it up for however many people you have:
Cook/fry 4 sausage links (homegrown is best, but I used store bought because our most delicious homegrown pork is long gone - boo hoo!)
While sausage is frying, cook 1 small winter squash (I use the microwave - put halved/quartered, seeds and strings removed, squash in a ziploc with a couple Tablespoons water, cook on high 5 to 10 minutes till soft.).
Core/slice 1 apple ( any variety - they're all good! Empire, Jonagold, Yellow Delicious, Liberty, Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Winter Banana... some cook more firm, some more soft, some sweeter, some more tart)
Add apples to the sausage and fry on both sides as the sausage finishes cooking. (Alt - you could cook the apples in butter- yum!- or just steam them) Sausage cooks somewhere around 10 minutes, apples 3 to 5.
Assembly - Scoop out cooked squash into a bowl - or use the halved/quartered squash in-the-skin as a bowl. Pile sausage and apples on top. I added a bit of butter to the cooked squash and kind of mashed it in the bowl before adding the sausage and apples.
Two - I just finished this as my (late) breakfast. MmmmMmmm Bowl-Licking Good. :-)
Franna's Fractured German Apple Pancake
Single serving, scale as needed. Heat oven to 350F
1T butter (I like butter!) - put it in a big custard cup and melt it in the heating oven.
Meanwhile, slice 1 apple.
Add 1 to 2 T sugar (depending on how sweet the apple is, and how strong your sweet tooth is) and 1/4 t cinnamon to the melted butter. Mix.
Add sliced/chopped apple and toss to coat. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes. Toss again after 5 minutes and 10 minutes.
While apples are cooking:
Beat 1 egg very well. Add 1T milk and beat some more. Add 1T flour and mix until blended.
Pour over the partially cooked apples and return to the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the egg is cooked. It will puff up about double in volume. Protect your oven by putting the custard cup on a baking sheet. ...how do I know this ?
It will be hot! and a wonderful breakfast for a chilly morning. And just look at the food groups! Dairy, eggs, fruit, grain. It has to be good for you. :-)
Sharing of a different sort:
After thinking and composing in my head for many months, I wrote a (web) paper on sheep color inheritance targeted at the Gotland upbreeding program. It's a final draft. I need to get one more person's permission to use their photo, plus put together my list of references and correct a few typos before publishing it. My goal was to write presentation-style for people who are not well versed in genetics, yet be technical enough that those who do understand genetics-speak will find it useful.
Dear Blog Readers, would you please take a look and comment?
It might take several short readings to digest the content. Short comments can be posted here - longer ones should come to my email address: email@example.com
Thursday, November 29, 2007
This is "Princess". It took weeks before she let us even see her, more weeks before she'd come out in the open, and now she lets us stroke her a little while she's eating. She, too, has developed a nice (plump?) body and healthy glow to her coat. I see them out of barn and in the open more and more. The third cat disappeared shortly after we let them out of quarantine. I hope she's doing as well.
Now, this little guy, Stars, is auditioning for House Cat. Originally, he and his sister, Stripes, were barn cats extraordinairre. Something happened to Stars, and he has some nerve damage to his left hind leg. It's taken some time, but he's getting around fairly well and finally maturing into a beautiful cat. ...long time readers might remember that Stripes disappeared a while back :-( Stars is extremely affectionate, underfoot, and hasn't learned to keep his claws sheathed when he's kneading. The straw bale doesn't care, but I sure do! He's still an outstanding mouser/ratter/mole-er.
The sheep are always curious about the cats. Here Bessie, Bits and Niblet try to reach Stars. I wonder what they'd do if he let them? He doesn't seem too concerned. Pumpkins! After Halloween, I bought 2 pallets of "Tiger Baby" pumpkins from a local fruit stand/corn maze/pumpkin farm. The sheep actually like them, though they go for the "gourmet" parts - seeds and strings and leave skin scattered all over - picky sheep!
Jack'O'Lantern didn't get quite made up this year. Finnsheep Freckles is doing her part to get to the gourmet parts of Jack. Finns, Brain and Pinky, are waiting for Freckles to do the hard work.
In the house, here is my domaine. Papers everywhere! Why in this age of computers and digital data, is there still so much paperwork? Well, this is where I spend way too much time, but I sure enjoy keeping in touch :-)
Clifford likes being close. It probably feels like some throwback shelter cave to him, under the desk. It doesn't hurt that he gets plenty of ear scritching when he comes up and lays his head in my lap.
Thomas appropriates the "best" dog place in the house. We had several of these dog beds until one by one they were chewed and eaten and de-fluffed. Now there's one. It is hardly ever vacant. When one dog gets up, another quickly finds the warm spot. ...amazing that Thomas got caught in a still moment.
Back out to the sheep - you knew I couldn't leave out the sheep, eh? Here are our three remaining Scottish Blackface lambs. The rest of the flock has been loaned out until we get to our 20 acre farm. Left to right are Sweet Pea, Eve, and Butch Cassidy. Sweet Pea and Butch are 50% UK bloodlines; Eve is 75%, from our second generation of UK breedings. They've had a lot of socialization, so are much less flighty than Scotties usually are.
These two are mother and daughter. Asa is our oldest ewe at age 8 1/2. She is a lovely Shetland from Puddleduck farm, and is as gentle as they come. Her half Gotland daughter, Bunny, is our overall nicest Gotland to date. Her conformation and fleece are very Gotland like. They make a pretty pair.
It's difficult to get a nice photo of a black sheep. I like this picture of Midnight, one of our Shetland ewe lambs. Midnight is 62.5% UK breeding and shows a lot of promise for crimpy, fine fiber with decent length. Now, if she'll just figure out that I'm her friend....- Franna
Well, after taking care of business and ushering the dogs outside, out I went. Sure enough, four little ewe lambs had gathered and were fixing to enter the yard and close proximity to two more breeding groups!
Fortunately, they readily followed me with a couple flakes of hay for incentive (or were they following the hay with me being just a nuisance?). They were reluctant to traipse through the mud in front of the barn. Elora came first (trying to get back into my good graces?) and gave Midnight, Pepper and Cinnamon enough incentive to pick their various ways through the mud.
Thinking I must have left their gate ajar, I was surprised to find it closed. After ushering them through and giving them their delectable (?) hay reward, I found the opening. Amy (the llama) has been pushing over the hog panel lane fence, grazing the "greener" grass, and had finally wore through the baling twine ties at one of the fence posts. It was open just enough for enterprising little sheep to go exploring. Gotta replace that e-topline on the lane fence!
More Innocence... Midnight and Cinnamon (again) with DG providing backdrop.
And Cinnamon (the camera hog!) with sister, Pepper, being coy.
All are safely back in their chastity pasture, though I'm checking more often! ...gotta get that hot wire up....
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
It is difficult to get a high lambing rate with traditional artificial insemination in sheep. Their cervix is convoluted and hard to penetrate, so cervical AI in sheep gets 20 to 30% lambing rates. With the high cost of importing semen ($60 to $110 per straw!), 20 to 30% is not high enough to be economically feasible. Some years ago now, laparoscopic AI was developed in sheep. The lambing rate is 70 to 80% with LAI, making the process more economically feasible. I've estimated that each LAI lamb has$100 to $150 more invested than the naturally bred lambs. When you're bringing in a new breed (Gotlands) or working with a very small gene pool (Scottish Blackface) or want characteristics from the "mother country" (Shetlands), LAI can be well worth the investment. Of course, the animals that don't work out, are just (more) expensive lamb chops. :-\
We decided to concentrate on the Gotland upbreeding program this year. We identified 16 ewes, both foundation ewes and half Gotland ewe lambs, for our LAI group this year. Another local shepherd, Joanne Martinis, became very interested in the Gotland breed after reading up on them and seeing our half Gotlands at the Puyallup Fair (see why we go to Fairs???). Joanne got together 4 foundation ewes of her own. We were disappointed to learn that due to the FMD outbreak in the UK, Gotland semen was limited this year. So both of us scaled back to 13 and 3 ewes each. As time got closer, a few more straws became available, so the final count on November 17th was 15 for us and 4 for Joanne. (Chart lists sheep, hormone dosage and time, LAI times, cleanup ram groups... details, details, and the empty straws with the teeny, tiny labels.)We borrowed this deluxe sheep cradle from Horned Dorset breeder Peter Janicki (Thanks, Peter!)
Dave takes a split second to mug for the camera while Martin gets the straw of little wigglers ready for their chance at fame!
The next morning found the Bubba (and Buddy) group lazing around in the Hilton. The LAI girls were taking it pretty easy, especially Asa (not in this photo) and Bibb (upper left), the oldest ones in our AI group. Standing is Bitterroot Bessie - NOT one of the AI girls, she gets to commune with Buddy as a primary. :-) She might wonder (if sheep are prone to such wonderings) why the others are being such stick in the muds on such a fine day. But, being a sheep, she seems content to just hang with them.
141 days and counting :-)
(More photos are on our website: http://everranch.com/Farm/Sheep/2008Lambs/2007LAI/LAIPhotos.html )
Thursday, November 15, 2007
This morning we got up early-ish... 5:30 am... to pull sponges and inject 16 ewes with hormones. Saturday, Martin Dally is coming to AI same ewes with Gotland semen! This will be our second year in the "Gotland Program". Hopefully in early April, we'll have 20+ more % Gotland lambs at EverRanch!
Rolling back a bit, we finally got the barn and Hilton cleaned out. Wow! There was a lot of bedding built up! You can get an idea in the barn. This was the first "path" cleared in the bedding. It was mid-thigh deep!!!
We rented this nifty Bobcat clone from the friendly local Kubuta dealer. At the same time they delivered the Bobcat, they took our tractor to the shop :-(
DH had a lot of fun motoring around in the Bobcat - with no overheating and no hydraulic leaks!
Thomas wanted to help. There was only room for one in the cab when it was running. The safety interlocks were amazing! Seat bar, seat belt, deadman seat switch, double hand controls....
There was waaaaay more compost in the works than we had space for. The neighbor (with the beautiful gardens!!!) said "sure!" when we asked him if he'd like some. ...heh... then he went away for the day. I wonder if he expected THIS MUCH??
Would you like to be our neighbor??? :-)
More recently (Nov. 3 and 4), I was chairman of the Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association's fall agility trials. (Yes, I was chair last month of the Welsh Springer agility trial... WHAT was I thinking???) Every year we take a group photo of all the labs we can gather.
And the 2007 Group!...
... with a few stragglers added. It's tough with a large group to get everyone looking with eyes open. My apologies to those who are "hiding". (The photo will "biggify" if you click on it.)
I hope to post news of the AI fun! Sometimes it gets so busy, there is no time for photo taking. I'll have the camera there, just in case. :-)
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The PT has a 5 speed manual transmission, great gas mileage and a lot of room for its size. I got it when my last minivan died and I had to have a car **now** to get to work and school. It was in the midst of finishing my dissertation, and I had no time to go car "shopping". That led to my first internet car search and transaction. Wow! If you hate car shopping like I do, this was great. I contacted the dealership by email and their internet price was "no haggle" $500 above invoice, and the 2004's were deeply discounted. I went in and selected the car. We were out of there with the new PT in just over an hour. That was 3 years ago.
The PT took us camping, it went to dog shows, it carried home Costco shelves, 8' 2x4's and 2x6's, 20 bag lots of alfalfa pellets, bales of hay, and even took Electra to the vet - haltered but loose. Unfortunately, carrying one bale of hay at a time isn't very efficient, and even I was a bit chagrined at carrying a sheep loose in my car.
Today, I traded the PT in for a Truck.
I'd been looking for a truck for several months. Originally, I thought a van would be better, but came around when the vans I looked at were just as high off the ground as a truck. I even went into a dealership where they pulled every sleazy car sales tactic in the book on me. I'm still fuming at them. So I surfed. Dealer inventories, AutoTrader, ebay Motors, Little Nickel. I drove through another dealer's lot, but couldn't bring myself to stop when I saw the vulture salesmen standing around waiting.
Last week, I thought I'd found The Truck on craigslist. It was a 3/4 ton Silverado long bed with lots of power goodies and set up for towing a trailer. I must've been too late, as the guy never answered my email.
In the middle of all this looking, I'd gone through my insurance company's car buying service. They listed a new 2006 Silverado, bare bones "Classic" truck with a $6000 dealer incentive discount - total around $14K, so I contacted the nearest USAA Chevy dealer probably a month ago. Turns out, it is near impossible to find a 2006 Silverado "Classic" work truck. I gave the internet sales manager my "wish list" for a truck - Work Truck, V-8, Long bed, Towing Package, under 50k miles, KBB or lower price.
He sent an email this morning:
2001 Silverado – White – 2WD – V8 – Regular Cab – 21,000 miles - $10,750
wow. He sent photos:
How many sheep do you think could fit in here? They'd have nice footing on the cushy mat! I helped one gal load up a show string of 8 Jacobs in her pickup with canopy very similar to this.
And inside - little to no wear and tear! With 21,000 miles, you wouldn't expect much. That's much less than my 2004 PT Cruiser!
Well, I changed my plans for the day, scooped out Pete (the PT), and drove to South Tacoma. The Truck looked just as good as its photos and drove great. P1 was already my favorite country station! They stood by the price (with a little reminding....), and later in the week will be doing a bed liner and adding a trailer brake controller. I put The Truck on my VISA card and drove it home.
I have to say it was sad leaving Pete there. It was a really fun car to drive. My preference is for a manual transmission, and it was the closest thing to "sporty" that I've owned. The Truck, though, matches my current lifestyle much more closely. Boots with sheep poo on the bottom, tattered down vest, wooly hat, bits of hay and straw caught in my hair, blue jeans with mud on the hem.
Now I just need to put a shotgun rack in the back window, add some camo seat covers and stick on my bumper sticker: "A Lady with a Gun Has More Fun" ;-)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
"Lazy" is misleading, though. "On the list" are putting the breeding groups together, preparing for LAI, arranging for driveway, water, septic and electricity at ERN, shearing a few more animals, foot care for the flock, cleaning out the barns, getting hay stored for the winter, spreading hog fuel and gravel in the muddy spots, daily feeding and water, sending fleeces out to customers and for processing, fibery projects and getting to know my new loom. Club activities: running the agility trials in 2 weeks, getting the Gotland association registry up and running, finding willing candidates for the Labrador Retriever club Board, and pre-planning for the 2010 Welsh Springer National Specialty. All too often, at the bottom of the list is spending time with the dogs, doing dishes and laundry - ugh! I know why those last two are at the bottom of the list.
Whew! I think I'll go sit with the ewes for a while, then play with Clifford. ...after all, I'm Retired. :-)
Monday, October 15, 2007
...and wild-eyed coming out of the ring!
...and Clifford - AKC and Int Ch. Briarbanc Brych Red Dog, RE, OA, NAJ
Saturday, October 13, 2007
My last post was all about Thursday. Thursday was "go get it" day. The hay was bought, the alfalfa and grain were bought, two sheep had been processed and quartered. Friday morning started out bright and early. By 2:00 pm I needed to start the setup for the agility trial. To do that, the sheep needed to be fed. None of the hay or grain was unloaded - so to feed the sheep I had to unload the bags of feed from the truck. Well, the trailer was still attached to the truck, so I couldn't get to the rear to unload the bags of feed. The trailer first needed to be unhitched. Rain was forecast, and the trailer isn't water tight, so the hay needed to come out before the trailer was unhitched.
Reverse dominoes - in order to feed the sheep, the truck has to be unloaded, to unload the truck, the trailer has to come off, to take the trailer off, the hay has to come out. Soooooo, position the trailer, unload the 18 bales - near 1 ton of hay - park and unhitch the trailer, back the truck up to the garage again, unload the 2200 lbs of feed, finally, put feed in the garbage cans and feed the sheep! Sheep are happy. Shepherd is bushed... but not done.
Now the pelts need to be spread out so they can cure/dry, and the "sheep-in-a-box" need to be cut up. It isn't too difficult to cut up a quartered sheep, but it does take time. The legs were boned, much of the loin boned, ribs cut up, shoulder boned and put in freezer bags. Darn it! Out of freezer bags and out of time! The second sheep-in-a-box gets frozen in quarters.
Loading the truck and setup for the agility trial took the rest of the day, including picking up one of the judges at the airport. The agility trials went well - very busy, and I even got to run my own dog, Clifford. He finished his Open Agility title and qualified 2 times for another title. :-) Clifford is shown below bursting out of the "closed tunnel" obstacle. The agility trials were 2 days of constant motion. Building courses, working the rings, fixing spaghetti, seeing to unending details, and running Clifford in 6 classes!
Monday found us not resting but packing up to drive to Hillsboro, Oregon, one of the Portland suburbs. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. held its 2007 National Specialty there. The events included a Hunt Test, Tracking Test, 2 Agility Trials, Rally Trials, Obedience Trials, Sweepstakes and Conformation show. Dave and I were the Agility judges for this year and we had a BLAST! I've had Labradors since 1971, and it was a real treat to judge all Labs in the agility trials. The forecast rain and wind mostly bypassed us and the weather was remarkably pleasant. People enjoyed the courses, and I got to watch the show on Thursday and Friday, finally some time to sit and rest my feet!
I got home to the usual status note from the farm sitter. Among the news of everything going well was an aside saying that she really didn't appreciate opening the garage door to see the ram's head looking at her. ... hmmmmm, guess I didn't quite get to taking it "out back" to get defleshed.
Looking forward to more relaxing time coming in the next several weeks!
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Photo of Winter last spring. This horn is the one that grew flat against his cheek. We don't need a white ram with a bad horn and average fleece.
Today was a whirlwind day. We were out of hay; we were out of alfalfa pellets; we were out of grain; and the grass isn't that abundant any more. The pasture lane is full of mud, so the hay delivery truck can't get to the hay barn. The next 6 days are going to be full of agility trials. I'm Chairman of two trials on Saturday and Sunday, then judging on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the Labrador Retriever Club's National Specialty. This is the season for cutting down to winter numbers, which means sheep must go. That was the setup for today.
First off (after Starbucks :-) I went to the grain mill for alfalfa, sheep, and laying pellets - we save about $2 per 50 lb bag by going a few miles to the mill in Tacoma. They loaded up the truck with 2200 lb of feed in 50# bags. I stopped at the local ethnic butcher on the way home to see if they had room in their schedule to process 2 sheep for us. If I could get back with the sheep within the hour, they could. Home again to pick up the trailer, Winter and Tori, salt and plastic bags for pelts, tarp for hay.
There is something a little unsettling about haltering a sheep and leading it to slaughter. Winter and Tori led right up to the door. Not long after, I salted their pelts and carried them out in boxes. They lived well, and died quickly and humanely.
Then, on to the feed store where we'd ordered 10 tons of hay. They are supposed to deliver the hay. We ordered and paid for the hay on Friday. On Sunday, it started to rain. It's been raining since, making mud in front of the barn. DH spread gravel in front of the barn with the tractor. That helped in front of the barn, but made slippery, muddy tracks where the tractor drove. So, we'll pick up hay as needed until they can get it delivered. Today I picked up 18 bales. Now, the truck is filled with 2200 lbs of feed, two "sheep in a box", 2 salted pelts, 18 bales of hay and one ram head. Of course, I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home to get ingredients for spaghetti dinner at the Agility trial on Saturday.
Have you followed all of this?
...then unpack it all and make spaghetti sauce and print out all the information needed for the agility trial setup tomorrow.
...and finish the last of the braided fleece tugs for agility prizes.
Oh... and post this new blog. :-)
Retirement is so relaxing. :-P