Saturday, May 14, 2011

Digging in the Dirt

First, a gratuitous photo of one of our older hens, an Americauna. the chickens are great at digging in the dirt!

Dave got the tiller going, and the rain held off long enough to get the garden area tilled! The back left corner is where the Sheepie Hilton compost pile was. I shoveled about half of it over the garden after the first tilling, then the rest stayed put... mostly. Sheep compost is wonderful! I plan to put the tomatoes in that location.

This is an expansion of our last garden - in 2009 during one of the best growing seasons that I can remember. This garden is maybe twice as large. The portion behind and to the left of the shed is new, as is most of the back towards the stump.

So, first I laid out the garden using Territorial Seed Company's new Garden Planner. What a great tool! I moved plants around and around until I liked the layout.

I started with the potatoes. The "potato towers" have intrigued me since I saw one at the Island County Fair two years ago. Potatoes take so much garden space when grown traditionally. The towers let the potatoes grow up, and produce more potatoes in the vertical space. There are many versions on the web, and I designed my own (of course!).

We had taken this field fence wire down several years ago, and I was about ready to take it to the dump. It had been grown into the grass and took some doing to get it loose.

I chose to make my towers about 3 feet in diameter, so that's just over 6 feet of length. The bolt cutters made quick work of cutting the wire lengths. Then, I wanted the towers to be low enough that I could reach the bottom, but high enough to grow lots of potatoes!

Bending the tops down, doubling the wire at the top, then rolling it into a cylinder, securing with the cut wire ends... voila - made a potato tower. Actually, the length of fence was enough to make 6 towers.

Above is the wire doubled and ready to roll. Below are 4 of the towers sitting in their planned location (yellow squares at the left of the plan above).

The box at the left, full of junk mulch quality fleeces, has a role to play. You'll have to wait until later to see that part.

So, below are four of the potatoes placed at the bottom of their tower, ready to be covered with dirt. I got three varieties this year, Satin (a yellow midseason), Carmine (a red midseason), and Burbank Russet (the most popular potato in the US, late season). This one is Satin.

As they grow, I'll add soil, compost and maybe straw. New potatoes will grow from the covered stems. The longer the stems, the more potatoes will grow. At least that's the idea. It's important to keep the growing potatoes from the light, so as I fill the tower, the sides will have to be covered with something dark.

Next I laid out some of the paths, and put boards down to walk on. This helps keep the soil from compacting around the plant roots. The broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Leeks were the next to go in. Here they are waiting in their assigned locations - green and purple boxes on the lower right of the plan.

The starts have been living on the patio awaiting this day. I repotted the broccoli and Brussels sprouts once, giving them more growing room. I was pleased to see vigorous, healthy new roots on all the transplants.

Above are my tools of the trade - board walkway, kneeling pad, garden gloves, trowel, organic fertilizer and PLANTS! Feather, one of the barn kitties had to "snoopervize". The hole left of the gloves has a bit of fertilizer in the bottom, ready to be mixed in before putting the plant in.

Below, the little leek plants are in their trench, waiting to be covered. They had nice root systems, too, and were easily separated. We use young leeks like green onions, so planting them close together allows some thinning along with a nice harvest during fall and winter.

So, 2/3 of the potatoes, all the leeks, and the broccoli and Brussels sprouts are in the ground! There is much more, of course, to go in. Now the pots that contained the broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and leeks will have squash and melon seeds planted in them, so they can get a good start while the unsettled, cold weather forecast for the next week passes.

They look so little, with lots of space around them. Assuming all goes well, they'll fill in soon enough, and I'll feel for the boards with my feet through all the greenery. Better, will be the eating!

PS. The sky was getting dark and threatening as I was finishing. The last photo was taken with a flash! As I was going back into the house, the rain started... again. It's still raining... hard.

Fiber Test Results

...came back today. I was starting to think the package had been lost. So, here are the raw results, some surprises, and some changes in my keeper sheep.

First, the Shetlands, since I think there are more Shetland readers than Gotland readers. :-)

Format is Name/Breed/age/AFD/SD/CV








Average - 26.66 - not bad!

So, the surprises - Astrid has a much softer feeling fleece than her micron results show. However, she will be for sale.

Bessie has been below 28 for the last 2 tests, so she's worth retesting. I didn't expect Toffee to be as low as she is, so she's coming off the sales list, and is staying. Electra and Barish are similar to previous results. I didn't expect Mindy to be so low either, but I'll leave her on the sales list. Blanca has a nice tight peak, both Toffee and Mindy have significant "tails" on the higher side - shown in their higher CV's.

Now the Gotlands, starting with the yearlings:



Cocoa Puff/25%Gotland-75%Shetland/1/24.4/7/28.5





then into the adults:









I've been selecting for finer fleeces in the Gotlands, too. Gotland sheep are not fine fleeced, althought the lamb fleeces are often under 3o micron afd. So, I'm seeing higher AFD's in the higher % Gotlands. I'm hoping to select for finer fleeces still within the standard range for Gotlands.

So disappointment wise, 75% Gotlands, Gem and Jewel, have 35.5 and 39.9 microns at 2 years old. Alice and Marie are near 30 afd in their lamb fleeces. Bunny is their dam at 35.6 afd, and Hoppy is 33.61 afd, so I was hoping these two would mature in the low 30's. They still might.

Also, Bits as a 2 year old tested 27.4/6.3/23, considerably lower than this result. Six of the fleece tests came from sheared fleeces, where I guessed at the midside, last rib location. Bits was one of these, so she deserves to be retested. Bunny and DeeTee also showed increased thickness since their 2 year old tests, so maybe Gotland sheep coarsen for several years... or again, maybe I just need to retest those six (Bits, Bunny, Bossie, Chamois, Gem, Jewel)

So, there they are, just as they are.

Just so the blog includes photos, here are Cocoa Puff:

and her daughter Licorice Drop. Licorice is 50%Gotland/50%Shetland.

- Franna

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Lamb Photos

Finally. FINALLY. We had a good photo day - dry, warm, good light, and me at home - when I could go sit with the sheep and take some photos. These lambs are between 7 weeks (Ashley and Lenny) and 3 weeks old (George).

We have 6 more Gotland ewes due the end of the month.

Shetlands - Electra with daughter, Spark, sired by FirthofFifth Barish

Shetland - Bolt is Spark's twin brother. He is for sale.

Shetland twins - Orville (ram) and Popcorn (ewe)

Another shot of Orville. Sire and Grandsire both have mid 20's micron adult fleece. Orville is well built with soft, crimpy fleece. He's for sale.

62.5% Gotland (with BFL, BL and Shetland) ram - Patch is very light grey.

Gotland - Morgan, Patch's twin brother. Morgan will be a medium to light grey as an adult. Both Patch and Morgan have nice, curly fleeces and are for sale.

62.5% Gotland/37.5% Shetland ewe - JayDee is for sale.

JayDee again.

Gotland - DeeJay, JayDee's twin sister. DeeJay is also for sale. JayDee will be fairly light grey and DeeJay will probably be medium to dark grey.

Gotlands - Angie (50%) and daughter, Delilah (68.75%). Both have incredible fleeces and nice bodies.

75% Gotland/ 25% Shetland - George is for sale and might carry brown.

Mutt sheep - Scottish Blackface/Gotland/Shetland.
Lenny and Ashley playing King and Queen of the stump.

Shetlands - Abe and Astrid, his dam. Abe is sired by Barish and is for sale.

Abe in another shot, liking that nice, spring grass!

Shetland - Toffee, 2yo, in full fleece. She is for sale.

Thanks for visiting the EverRanch lambs!
- Franna