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.

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.

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