Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

More of what it looks like around here...

 Wheely Wooly Fair Isle's fleece!  
Notice the color change under the tips?
The bits of VM will shake out in the first little rain.

This is a very nice little fleece from this little guy!  It's very soft and I already cannot wait to spin it.  He is also so friendly, always looking for a chin scratch.  He is just the kind of fellow we like to raise around here.  This fleece will make gorgeous yarn suitable for the most sensitive parts of human skin.

 The pear tree.

The pear tree was pretty stressed by the drought.   We did water it some, just enough to get it by.  Thankfully, we got a good rain which seems to have turned things around back to life.  Some top branches bearing fruit did crack and break off, leaving brown branches on the ground with fruit on them.  Nutmeg the Bunny loved every bit of them.

Mildred the laying hen

Mildred is called a Barred Rock.  She's simple farm quality, not for show.  She's been a great layer of beautiful brown eggs with speckling on them.  It's easy to tell her eggs from the other hens, so we've been able to keep track of how many she lays.  Having hens around is wonderful!  They really keep the bug population in check, and they are the BEST compost makers!  Don't know how I lived without them.

Stay tuned!  Coming up next is a knitting project out of Wheely Wooly Lacey, Lil' Rainbow's LOVELY little ewe!  I'm very excited about Lacey's fleece.  Some of it is going to market soon so watch for it!  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Farm: Rain! Rain!

Beautiful rain!  Last night, and this afternoon, we've had the best rain we've had in a good eight weeks!  It's still not enough, but it will surely get the plants going back into a life mode, rather than death.  Our apple trees will have very few apples to harvest this year, and the pear was surely stressed, so I hope the fruit can now recover.

The sheep have been grazing all along, but we were on our last grass and getting very worried.  The 100 degree days (like yesterday) mean the sheep are left in (and fed hay).  It's so hot on the pasture, the sheep would not be able to pant enough to cool themselves and their lives would be threatened.  We have saved one last rotation of grass to give them, but now we may not have to worry so much!  I think we've gotten enough rain that the grass will grow.  So let's see...I've lost track now...I think we are now at day 24 or day 25 of over 90 degree temps (several of those over 100 degrees).  For this region, that's very, very rare.  I'm sure I won't forget this drought for a long time to come!  I still remember the 1988 drought, even though I was living far from here, high up in the cool Colorado Rockies!

This living, breathing planet just cannot be ignored.  We all depend on it for survival.  For every year older I get, I come to realize how important it is to make choices in life that promote awareness of our dependency, and proper stewardship.  This is not hippie stuff, folks.  It's life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Farm: Berries, Chicks, and drought

 Summer Raspberries

Well, I now know summer raspberries can tolerate heat and drought!  These berries came from a berry patch I started only three springs ago.  This was it's first big year of production, giving us enough berries for jam and smoothies, or fresh eating.  This colander is one day's picking.  Unless chemicals drifted here from somewhere else, these berries are all store bought fertilizers or sprays or anything and they are scrumptious!  
 One fine Chickie Wagon!

Actually, it's a hutch right now...don't have the wheels on it yet.  This is such a nice summer arrangement for raising chicks!  I designed it myself, based on my desire for chick safety, fresh air, and easy tending of them. The walls are made out of my sheep skirting tables...the roof, too.  I discovered that the roof makes a GREAT place to dry garlic and onions, as nothing is getting dusty up there, and the air movement is really nice.  The doors are scrap wood that was cut up to size.  The doors on the right are double doors that can be opened up for easy cleaning out of bedding.  The door on the back left is a singular, wide door with a little "window" next to it for ease of tending the chicks.  I have their food by one door, and the water by the other.  Easy!  To change out the bedding, I just open the doors and use a child's old garden hoe or rake to pull the dirty bedding into a waiting cart under the floor.  Piece of cake!  Each time I want to open the doors, I knock first, letting the chicks know the door is about to open.  They are now trained to move away from the doors when they hear that knock, so no one falls out.  The chicks are thriving in this space.  They love that bugs can fly in at night...huge chickie entertainment!  The air moves through nicely, without being too strong, they have sunlight if I want to adjust the shed doors for it, and I can shelter them from rain if I want to.  I love my design!  As the chicks get old enough, they'll be given outside space so that they can enter the hutch or come out as they please.  Later, we'll add nest boxes and sleeping perches, so that it will just become a night coop for them.  I placed an old picnic bench along the unseen side so that I can sit in the shade and observe them whenever I want.  I love watching them!  It makes for a nice break during busy days.
I have a new perspective of pink and blue!

We went blueberry picking the other day.  What fun!  Would you believe it if I told you I've never seen a blueberry plant before?  It's true!  I wanted to see what the shrubs are like, and experience picking for myself.  The field was beautiful!  The shrubs were loaded with blueberries ready for eating.  It didn't take us long to get as many as we planned, and we had a nice wagon ride out there and back.  I'm sure we'll be making this an annual adventure from now on...only next time, we've already decided to get more!  I planted some shrubs on the farm last spring, but they'll take awhile to produce.  Now I know what they need to aspire to, and how to get them there.

Deviating from berries and chicks, our state is in the midst of a severe drought.  Some areas of our state look either pretty good, or outstanding.  For example, the field corn (humans cannot eat the stuff), is seven feet high next to the blueberry field.  But if you go the the central or southwest part of our state, serious sadness sinks into your heart.  I've never seen anything like it.  Mighty oak trees wilted and on the verge of death.  Shrubs, wildflowers, grass, all brown, shriveled, and near death with leaves choked with dust.  Crops barely grown in silty or brown dusty fields, baked and fried.  Wetlands and marshes zigzagged with water to be seen.  There is little hay for the livestock, no forages for the winter, no grazing.  Vegetable plots are withered with scalded edges on leaves and brown branches...little fruit bearing, if at all.  Fruit trees near death, their fruit laying on the ground tiny and withered.  You can see the worry on country people's faces, hear it in their voices.  I people living in cities have any idea how devastating this is?  We've seen lawns getting telling city people "no worries!  Water all you restrictions!", yet we're hearing of wells drying up, crops at a total loss, livestock heat stressed and weakened, some dying.  What do you think?  In a time of record drought and scalding temperatures, should water be used to green up suburban lawns next to the street?  Or to produce food for everyone???  What a crazy world we live in.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Farm: Welcome EAA!

It's that time again!  Every day this week, as I tend the garden, socialize the lambs on pasture, refill water tanks or check fence, I'll be raising my eyes to the skies to see who might be flying by!  The Warbirds are easy...their distinct sound can be heard quite some time before they fly over...usually so low that I can see the nearly naked girls painted on the sides of the planes.  Other times, a fiesty little thing will approach faster than a hornet on a mission...buzzing across the sky while going way up, way down, way up, way down...practicing those amazing stunts.  As the engine responds to the G's, we hear all kinds of buzzing, sputters, and sometimes silence as the engine cuts and the plane stalls out, only to restart as the altitude gets perilously low.        Sometimes we see planes twisting over and over, as if they wish to spin yarns in the sky...with each flip followed by an eeeerrrrrr, eeeeerrrrr, eeeeerrrrrrrwwwwwwww before the plane slips into the blue and disappears.

This is crooked neck season here on Wheely Wooly Farm.  I just can't help but look up over and over as all these cool planes take to the skies over our pastures.  I used to worry about the noise stress to our livestock, but they seem to take it in stride, having gotten used to it.  The chickens, though, are a whole 'nother story!  They get pretty stressed out at all the "hawks" overhead and repeatedly dive for cover under hostas, corn stalks, tall grasses, raspberry canes, pine trees, or buildings.  For them, it's 'duck and cover' week.  Nothing rattles a hen more than huge shadows sliding across the lawn!!!!!!  We usually see a reduction in eggs laid during EAA week...

Despite that, we are thrilled to see the EAAer's come in!  You are such a fun group to have visit us! It is truly a pleasure to welcome all of you and all the amazing aircraft to our community.

If you attend, what might you see?  Smoke jumper airplanes, Coast Guard helicopters, jets, jets, jets, old war planes, hurricane radar planes, bi-planes, stunt planes, wing walkers, ultralights, home-built planes (some flown here, some not :), commercial craft, gliders, military jets, a celebrity or two... and of course, parts, parts, props, and parts! Remember the Concorde?  It was once here, but now forever grounded.  It was truly a beautiful piece of invention!!  You'll see a vast array of invention, meet lots of very interesting people, and maybe get to hear an astronaut or two...

I'll let you know if I need a hot pack for my neck by the end of the week...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Farm: We raise fiber and Wheely Wooly Moonlight

Are we a hobby farm?  An Old MacDonald farm?  An old-fashioned farm?  We aren't any of those things.  Wheely Wooly Farm is a business that specializes in producing fibers suitable for clothing.  We are genuinely family run, we contentedly live right next to the sheep pastures and sheep barn, and we strive to raise the highest quality fiber Shetland sheep can provide.  Why Shetlands?  Because Shetland fiber far surpasses common meat sheep fiber in quality, softness, spinability, color, and wearability.  You just can't beat the high quality fibers Shetlands easily provide!

Some people ask us if we are an heirloom farm.  The answer is...yes and no.  Shetland sheep are an heirloom breed in that they were a significant part of a culture's ability to feed itself, and grow it's economy through time with wool products.  Over how much time?  Over a thousand years!  They are an animal of economy and purpose.  We do not keep Shetland sheep just for the "heirloom" aspect, rather, we keep them for their outstanding economies in current times.  And in a time of drought and heat, when feedstuffs will be hard to come by in the months to come, they are proving themselves for sure!  So yes, we have an heirloom breed of livestock, but no, we do not keep them just for that purpose.  They are my job.
Wheely Wooly Moonlight
born 4-5-12

Isn't he beautiful??  This little ram lamb has bright, soft eyes, a lovely head and perfect horns, a sweet and gentle personality, and a fast growth rate (for a Shetland!).  He's thriving (and so is his mom) despite the drought and heat.  He's "black" in color right now, but you can sort of see some chocolatey browns coming through with careful study.  It'd be easy to think that's sun damage, but it's actually been there all along, before the hot sunny days.  I'm sure he'll fade to a lighter color due to genetics, in time, for that is what we love and seek in Shetland sheep.

His personality is really just ideal, and we here at Wheely Wooly Farm are very pleased to be raising such wonderful stock for small farms!!!  But there is more!  His fleece is very special.  It's longish and wavy, with the fineness that Wooly Bear has passed on to all his offspring.  Now Moonlight is out of Twilight, that little fellow we kept over from last year.  Twilight was the little ram that went to school with us to teach kids about sheep, geography, fiber arts and animal husbandry.  Twilight's fleece is very fine and soft, with a staple length of at least four inches (I haven't measured it yet), and is very light, dense, and dreamy!  He obviously passed that on to his little Moonlight!

Our breeding goals are fiber quality, then personality, then conformation.  Why is conformation third on the list?  Because if you don't have good fiber or a gentle temperament, who cares what the rest looks like?!?  So many farms put temperament somewhere off the list of fact, if you mention you breed for that, you usually get a good laugh and face credibility issues.  I just don't get that, cause what I hear repeatedly over the years is this "I got rid of that one because it was mean" or "that one was trucked, it was sooo mean!" or "it got mean when it grew up so it's in the freezer now, HAH!".  We see a real disconnect here....

Today was a beautiful farm market again!  Think long sundresses, the clicking of bike chains passing by with smiley people and baskets loaded with the leaves, stems, and flowers of all sorts sticking out!  I swear someone was baking cookies out there this morning!  Oh the drifts of coffee in the air, and fresh dill, and the long lines for blueberries and the fragrant basil!  Bright zinnias, snapdragons and bobbing sunflowers smiling at me as people stroll, faces hidden...the seagulls calling overhead in playful summer morning flight.  Edgy concrete softened, city noise faded, gray lost, nerves gentled.  Passersby delighting in a squeeze of soft yarn or a good long sniff of fresh wool...then stories of memories or favorite long-worn clothes and grandmas, and wistful dreaming of something new to have.  These are the sights and sounds of summer market.  After our years of being there now, of introducing our farm and sheep and yarn, we too have become a favorite experience and destination for knitters, gift givers, and soon-to-be knitters.   We've succeeded in making that long lost connection that clothing, too, has sustainability.  Clothing is a choice, just like food.  Wool connects us to the past in health and culture, and links us to the future in it's safety and soundness.  It is useful, cozy, warm, pretty and smart. It has been re-discovered. 

We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about our farm and what we do!  Stay tuned!  More about the farm is coming up!    

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Farm: Our blog and who reads it

A good blog is like good fruit, right Claire?

Writing for a blog is a challenging task.  Our audience, being vast and wide in scope, creates unique issues that are rarely ever a problem for writers in other mediums.  For example, newspapers tend to have long held (long developed) tendencies established by the publisher of days past, so that readers who live in that area and frequent a paper's pages have some idea of the underlying tone.  Magazines and special interest publications are directly targeted to their demographic, making writing a piece simplistic in tone.  If you connect with the audience with either the correct tendencies, style or tone, you will find writing for them a piece of cake.

With a blog, it's so much different!  Our farm blog is pretty clearly about sheep...Shetland sheep to be more precise.  We include posts about our fiber, spinning, yarn, needles, and sales, with occasional posts about the rest of the farm.   It is a hard task!  Our readers are so very diverse that it's a challenge to write for the correct market...the correct tendencies...the correct style or tone.  I fumble and stumble on this one all the time.  It's the hardest part to writing a farm blog. 

One large group of people who frequent my blog are easily the camp.  For those of you who follow our farm, you'll know that I define "the camp" as a collective group of people who's goal is to modernize the Shetland sheep while saying they are historians of the breed.  These are the people who claim our breed standard words of longish and wavy actually mean super crimpy, super short.  These people have collectively agreed to not put my blog on their blog rolls nor have they become visible followers, yet they visit our farm blog a lot!   These people come from states such as Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and some states along the eastern seaboard of the US, as well as certain Canadian visitors. Cracks me up.  Writing for them is different than writing for the next group.  This first group most likes reading about things they can complain about.  They are fun to us for they have given us so much in farm identity, allowing us to become known throughout the world and prosper.  We have much to thank them for, even if they often eat a rather bitter apple off our blog when they read things that don't step in line with their own, more modern philosophies!  No apologies!  We love the genuine Shetland's soft, light yarns more than we love modern fleece types that are so common in the world today.  Compromising fleece quality is something we are not interested in right now.

The other large (much larger) group of people who frequent our farm blog are our customers.  Since we sell our yarns to mainly urban knitters, we love the connection we've grown to have with you!  You are appreciative of our hard work and dedication to our farm and sheep.  Writing for this group is equally fun, like the first group, except this group buys our yarns, loves our yarns and comes back for more...not only for themselves, but also for gifts they can be proud to give, gifts knitters find much joy in!  This group is a joy to write for.   Our blog posts for them might typically be about a question a customer might have had, or a wish to meet a sheep, or someone concerned with our loss of rights and freedoms to produce on a small farm.  Sometimes we revisit pictures or topics just for someone in this group, or post completed projects for all to see. The feedback we always get regarding these type of posts is gratitude and joy!  That is sweet fruit! 

Then, there are old friends and family.  That's a whole 'nother demographic!  Some of our family live close, others in other states, some are in other countries all the time, or just for a week or two.  Globe trotting adds a whole new spin on posting!  Some family are very, very urban.  Some live in high-stylin' areas, while others are in declining economies.  Such a mixture!  I fumble here, too!  There just is no way to write for such a diverse target without fumbling on some words or concepts!

Mentors follow us and watch us grow.  Fumble!

Other smaller demographic groups read our blog, too.  I always hope they find some fruit here...something to make them giggle just a bit, or think, or something.  I know our work on this blog has been 'borrowed' and ended up in the Black Sheep Newsletter  and other fibery publications, as well as our local sheep festival.  We have a history of inspiring people, of being a positive influence, of creating positive change in the  sheep community.  People use what they read here to help them find clarity in their own farm identities, goals and aspirations.  Our work on sheep conformation, fleece types, halter training, how to show Shetlands, and knowing your product by being experienced spinners and knitters has been profoundly influential, changing the way other farms advertise, sell, and interact with potential customers.  We see the changes one by one and know our blog has yielded a bumper crop of good fruit. 

However writing for the vast and broad scope of people and situations out there is bound to stir feelings in people.  Urban and rural people have different radars, different vocabularies and different reference points.  I've had the good fortune to sit on both sides of that fence, and I must say that urban people urgently need to support rural interests, and that rural people have been sending off alarms for quite some time, correctly so.  There is sweet fruit, bitter fruit, tasteless fruit, and fruit bursting with flavor.

When you write a farm blog, you don't have one demographic, one market, or one following.  A good blog shakes people into thinking, introduces them to new perspectives, builds friendships, commerce, activity and change.     Blogging about our farm, sheep, and resulting products has accomplished all of these objectives.  Our reputation has grown.  Our customers come back and bring their friends.  We are trusted.  We are profitable and sustainable despite the fact that we rarely sell livestock and we keep a low profile.  A good blog gets things growing...flowering...fruiting, or maybe you're just handing out seeds to chew on.  If you can accomplish this amidst the challenges of a jumbled, scrambled demographic, you'll indeed pass on good fruit, right Claire?


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Farm: No needles in haystacks

 More of these popular sellers will be coming to market soon!

Here at the farm, there are no needles in the haystack!  Where are they?  You'll find them on display throughout our yarns at the market.  Blue, purple, red, green, and natural colored balls are available.  Other really cute needles have acorns or strawberries on the ends.  Why, we even have pumpkins!  The fruit and nut needles are so popular, we cannot keep up in making them, so if you see them and like them, don't wait to buy them!

 All needles are carefully and expertly crafted with strong woods that will please you for years of knitting.  Our specialized tips make for easy knitting, with points sharp enough to enter a stitch cleanly, without unnecessary bulk or dullness.  These needles are suitable for all gauges of yarn, are designed by an avid knitter, and pre-tested before sold.   Try a pair when making a hat, scarf, mittens, or a sweater.  They also make great gifts, especially when paired with a couple of skeins of yarn!   Watch for our size 13's!  They sell out quickly, so if you see a color you like, don't wait!  Designed and sold exclusively by Wheely Wooly Farm.  All rights reserved.

Stay cool everyone! (Isn't this just a GREAT time to knit!  Too hot to be outside...isn't knitting the perfect excuse to SIT where it's COOL??  giggle, giggle :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Farm: Hen Spa

A very busy place!

Oh yes, girls will be girls!  Except roosters love the hen spa just as much as the hens do.  Here is Sweetie Tweetie.  In the chicken world, she's called a Buff-Laced Polish hen.  She came to our farm six years ago as a little yellow chick with a little yellow pom on the top of her head.  She was taller than all the other chicks, but that didn't seem to bother anyone.  This year, Sweetie Tweetie is going to the fair...not for the rides you know!  She wouldn't like the wind in her lovely pom...

Sweetie Tweetie is outstanding in her upkeep of herself.   She busily attends to her feathers, and doesn't like to walk through mud puddles.  When it's raining, she doesn't like to use her pom as an umbrella, so she's one of the first to dive for cover.  Despite the fact you'd think she cannot see anything, as her pom seems to completely hide her eyes, she seems to have that outstanding chickie eyesight.  If a hawk comes around, you won't see her anywhere...she knows and she hides way before you'd notice anything.

The rest of the time, she is a busy forager.  All around the farm she trots, quite fast sometimes.  She dives for grasshoppers in the grass, leaps up to snatch a leaping cricket out of the air, and loves early evening strolls on the lawn, snatching up bedtime snacks.  Speaking of bedtime, she's an early to bed/early to rise type.  She loves sleeping on the window seat, so I have to be careful to close the window when rain might come in the night.  

The picture you see here is one of her favorite places.  We call it the hen spa.  This is where all the chickens like to dust a place where I dug out a plant to relocate it.  I left a little hole there, thinking when I saw it that the chickens would like it.  Yep!  They do!  Dust bathing is critical to chickens.  The dust helps them keep their feathers free of blood-sucking mites and bugs.  It helps them preen their feathers, and it just plain feels good to roll around in the dirt.  When bathing, they will roll their heads upside down and rub their heads in the dust.  When they stop, you'd think they were dead if you didn't know better!  They need that dust be have pretty feathers and healthy skin.  They need the dust and the motions to feel happy and healthy. Just think if you couldn't ever bathe?  What would your skin feel, look, and smell like?  Would you be healthy?

In having the chickens, you see for yourself how cruel cage life inside a building day and night truly is.  No sunlight, no dust baths, no bugs to leap and dive after, no scratching, and no trotting around.  It must be a positively miserable life.

Sweetie Tweetie, you sure are a LUCKY GIRL!

By the way...Polish chickens are NOT Polish!  They're DUTCH!  Imagine that.  The Dutch people adore chickens SO much, they created the first poultry museum in the Netherlands.  Chickens are a very deeply entrenched part of Dutch culture and cuisine.  Polish chickens got their name from the Dutch, for in their language, it means "polled" or "with a knob or bump or poll on top of the head".  The Dutch developed the breed, and cherished them.  We're glad they did!  Sweetie Tweetie types are GREAT additions to the farm flock.

Now if only I had a spa....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Farm: Breeding Ram For Sale

Wheely Wooly Starlight
born 4-21-12

This outstanding ram (who will be registered with North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Association) is all white with black points.  His fleece is outstandingly Shetland, perfectly suitable for handspinning for clothing.  To top off his lovely fleece, he has a beautiful tail, nice bone, bright expresssion, outstanding horns,  correct size and a sweet personality.  His sire has never missed a ewe and throws very fine fleeces with wonderful small flock-friendly personalities.

Our farm is disease-free, and we do not partake in any shared transport, or sharing of transport vehicles and trailers.  We also do not swap sheep, or borrow rams, all of which transport disease no matter how much testing is 'negative'.  You can rest assured that your purchase will be of clean health and will be an asset in your own flock!

For further information, email us at

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Farm: Chipmunk Chicks

...and others!

There are two kinds of people in life:  those who despise chipmunks, and those who adore them!  I'm an adoring fan of their antics and clever busyness!  Therefore, of course I would love chicks that look like chipmunks!

These chicks are from a summer batch we are raising.  Having chicks around is great fun, and I love raising them.  If you give them what they need to be happy, they will return the care with lots of musical peeps and happiness. 

On a different note:  I'm trying out a new kind of rain dance...leaving things outside at night that shouldn't get rained on.  Hope it works 'cause it seems to always work that way, doesn't it?

Wish me luck.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Farm

Let's start here!  

So many of you ask about our farm.  Small farms have become tremendously popular lately.  Based on the questions we get from customers, it's clear to us that interest is running high.  We are also realizing that so many of you are raising gardens in the city, and are seeking good laying hens.  So we decided to show you some images of our farm, just as you have asked for!  Yes, we raise a big garden and delight in doing so.  Yes, we raise laying hens.  Yes, we are loving a small farm, and delight in the healthy changes in the land our management has brought.  Yes, we have seen 'traditional' farms degrade, become hotter, dustier, drier stinkier, uglier and noisier.  Yes, we have seen that modern farms are so unpleasant (to downright dangerous), the "families" no longer live there, nor do their "employees".

Our farm is not only a very pleasant place to live, it's got a growing beauty all it's own.  Follow along with us as we share what we've done with our little farm.  Let's start with the sunflowers!  Did you know that I did not plant these?  The birds planted them last year when they pecked out the seed from last year's flowers.  This is a cycle that repeats every year.  The seed freezes in the soil all winter (needed for germination in spring), then sprouts up at the perfect time of spring rain and warm evenings.  These plants are strong, and well adapted to "their place".  How pleasant they are!

Sunflowers are very useful plants.  Did you know you can eat the seeds?  Or you can raise them for your own bird seed.  We raise them for their beauty, our food, to attract birds, and to give our livestock something delicious to eat on snowy days next winter.  Yes, sheep and goats LOVE the leaves and stalks.  The hens love perching on the stalks in winter, and when we pull out the stalks, we give the clump of roots to  the hens as well.  They are delighted to break down the clump and eat up the grit, worms or insects they find there.  Sunflowers are very cyclical plants.  They are always giving, always enriching, always returning.  I love that about them!

Stay tuned for much more!  If you love small farms, gardens, farmhouses, chicks, and other animals, you won't want to miss what's coming!  Don't worry sheep lovers!  I'll have lots more sheep pictures coming, too!  Wait until you see Wheely Wooly Moonlight and Wheely Wooly Starlight... two VERY handsome boys we are proud to present!  Until then, stay cool everyone!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heat Stress Update

The air temperature here at the farm, as read off a reliable thermometer set five feet off the ground, and in the shade gave a reading of 101 degrees at noon.  I didn't have time to look at it later, as we had our work cut out for us in keeping the livestock as comfortable as possible!  The dew point is down today, but still very high.  This dew point, combined with the high heat is what makes things so dangerous for livestock.  I saw for myself today temperatures that were 104 degrees, and in one place, it was 107 degrees.

Today, we were ready.  The ewes and lambs stayed in the barn with the huge fan until the worst of the heat hit, then we moved them outside to a special temporary set up under the apple trees.  This, of course, really perked them up and despite the heat, they delighted in their annual pruning job.  The breeze had kicked up a bit, which really helped.  Topping off their stock tank frequently, along with that breeze, and apples for diversion, kept them perky the rest of the day!

I know that in certain parts of our country, this hot air is normal, everyday stuff.  The bad news is that nearly our whole country is affected by this heat (as many of you readers are experiencing yourselves!)  I hope everyone is doing ok, and if you have livestock, that things are going good for you!

Heat Stress

Quick Post...our temperatures have soared lately.  We had air temperatures above 100 degrees yesterday, with a dew point of 78.  That combination makes for very dangerous conditions for livestock.  We are very thankful to have created a pasture for the rams with dense shade.  They are hanging out there, with the shade trees possibly saving their lives.  The ewes are rotated around on pasture, but despite having good grass for them, they cannot be out grazing without risking their lives.   They are passing this time of heat in the shade of the barn, with a huge livestock fan blowing on them.   The lambs lay as close to the breeze as the fence allows them to, and the ewes take turns standing in the strongest flow of air, nose to the fan.  I've given them electrolytes in their water, but they don't really want that.  Good thing I provided plain water next to it, just in case they didn't want to drink the orange water!  We are checking on that water every hour, keeping it cold, clean, and fresh.  It's shocking how fast that water goes down in this heat!

Yesterday afternoon, as the heat really intensified, we needed to hose a couple of livestock down with cold water.  One thing about a little bit of wool growth is it holds the water to the skin nicely!  Most definitely a lifesaver yesterday!  One ewe is nursing twins, so I think the heat got her pretty good.  The cold water seemed to really help and she clearly felt better afterwards.  We'll be keeping a very close eye on her ability to produce milk and to make sure her lambs continue to thrive as they have so far.  So far, so good, but I'm not leaving the farm much!!!

I must admit that something drives me nuts.  Do you ever notice the weather forecasts and how the language is worded??  The script is always along these lines "for your recreational needs" or "for your outdoor fun" or "for your work week".  If you listen with an open, and more realistic mind to all the scripts of the weather people, you will notice that farmers and livestock keepers are completely absent from the weather scripts.  There is no promotion of awareness of how hard people work to love and care for their stock.  Weather like this is critical to livestock.  They die of heat stress just like people do.  Most stock on small farms are kept by people who love having them, and enjoy caring for them, even if most ARE animals for human food.  Many people take pride in their attentive care.  The very least the weather people could do is add us to their scripts occasionally, especially when such dangerous weather such as this hits.  Why do they ignore us?  It's such an intentional absence that has gone on for years and years.  Have YOU noticed this?

Did you know that most people live within two miles of livestock?  Livestock is all around us.  They provide us with many things most of us wouldn't want to live without.  So why are they so ignored by the mass media?????

Next up, pictures of life on our farm lately, and what it looks like!

Please, please stay cool everyone, and if you know someone who has livestock, do something nice for them today!