Fleece on the Hoof

We have our texel sheep shorn in the Feb/March timeframe.  We trailer them over to a neighbor’s farm for sheering day.  Our friends have a few hundred sheep, and hire a shearing team from Blacksburg, VA to come for the day.  We put our sheep up in the barn overnight to keep them warm before the trip over.  It helps get their lanolin flowing and makes the job easier.  We got between four and almost ten pounds of fleece per sheep this year.  If you are curious about what texel fleece looks like as yarn (I was), here’s a local fiber artist who was at shearing day with us last year.  She blogged about spinning it.  It’s pretty!  http://feelinfibers.blogspot.com/2009/02/new-fleece-what-is-it.html


You Can Teach an Old Dog

FiFi (Sophia) and her brother Milos spent their first four years guarding a few hundred Tennessee Fainting Goats before they came home to watch over our small flock and herd.  They didn’t get a lot of attention, being part of such a large operation.   Now that they’re our dogs, they get lots of love and attention.  I decided to try to teach them ‘sit’.  It took FiFi about a day to catch on.  Milos is still  working on it.  FiFi now runs up to me and sits when she sees me, hoping I have a biscuit in my pocket.  I usually do.  She’s 140 pounds of adorable.

A Little Bit of Everything

That’s what we entered in our county fair this year.  Garlic, sunflower head, sweet potato, soap,  honey, baked goods, some artwork, Grandma’s quilt and a ton of canned goods.  We ended up with 36 blue ribbons, 11 second place ribbons (including the big one for second place antique quilt) and 9 third place ribbons!  We earned the largest check of this year’s fair.  What should we spend it on??

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  CoCo is an oberhasli swiss dairy goat.  She came to us from a goat dairy earlier this year.  Did you know most dairies will practically give their kids away at one week old?  That’s all the time they are allowed with their moms.   Dairies want the milk, so the kids go to homes that will bottle feed them.   That’s what we did.  You can get powdered kid formula and nipples that will fit on top of a soda bottle at places like Tractor Supply.   She got her bottle every 4 hours, except for over night.  Because of this, she thinks I am her mommy.  Even though she’s long been weaned, every time I come into the pasture, she runs to greet me.  It makes getting a photo of her very challenging…  We have high hopes for good milk production from her down the road and wouldn’t hesitate to get another bottle oberhasli baby.


What else would you name a giant white chicken?   She’s an Americauna who give us lovely green eggs.  We got her last year from a local poultry guy.  We didn’t set out to buy a chick that day, we set out to buy 2 turkeys to raise for our holiday table.   The turkeys were just 12 hours old, and were running around with baby chicks.  The guy said you’d better buy one of the chicks, too.  Turkeys learn how to eat by watching chickens do it.  Turkeys are stupid.  Ours died within a week.  They starved to death.  We still have Cranberry, though.  What a perfect name for a turkey side!


We got 3/4 of a cup last year and then our bees died over the winter.  We did considerably better this year!  It’s all been sold, with the exception of some we’ve set aside for ourselves and family.   One of the guys in our bee club asked us if we had 5 extra gallons to sell him to meet one of his customer orders, so we’re still very small time (but it didn’t feel that way the day we extracted this in our kitchen!)

Who You Gonna Call?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Evidently, us.  We had a call from our local Farm Service Agency.  Someone was cutting down a tree on their property and discovered it was full of honey bees and could we come get them?   This is our second year for beekeeping.  All of our bees died last winter, so we don’t exactly feel like experts and have never captured a wild hive, or seen it done.  But sure, we’ll take some free bees.   We spent $126 repopulating our two hives this past Spring.  Bees are expensive!  The tree was already down, with bees spilling out of a hole in the trunk.  We started by cutting the tree either side of the hole.  The bees were unbelievably calm, considering a chainsaw was used for this part.  The hole in the tree was much deeper than expected so we continued to make slices in the trunk.  These slices were manageable weight-wise, so we were able to dump the bees from each slice into a large cardboard box.  The homeowner was very excited to think she’d get some honey, but there was very little and the comb was infested with termites (which were probably in the tree before the bees arrived).   We loaded our cardboard box full of bees into the back of our pickup and dropped it off in our bee yard.  I need to run for a few hive supplies today.  We’ll start feeding them sugar water immediately and hope they survive our upcoming winter.  Today we’re officially ‘bee people’.  That’s who you call when you need bees removed and, evidently, we figured out how to do it!

Karaka – What?

The Karakachan is one of Europe’s oldest dog breeds, originating in Bulgaria.  Today, there only a few hundred Karakachan dogs serving as livestock guardians in the U.S.  We have two of them.  They are a brother and sister pair, and half of our livestock guardian force.  They came to us from a fainting goat farm in Tennessee that was closing down.   Milos and Sofia (FiFi) weigh around 150 pounds each.   They had a rough start on Missing Willow Farm.  The day they were delivered they were released in our front yard, without collars, and immediately ran off.   It took over an hour of coaxing, but they finally made it into our small pasture where we spent a good month socializing ourselves to them.   They started out very skitterish.  This is a photo taken of them during that timeframe.  They hung together in the wooded area of our small pasture.   We finally got to the point where they were both approachable, and were able to erect a fenced chute between pasture gates and got them moved over.  They are now happy social members of our menagerie.  They have understood from day one that our border collie Jenna is a working member of our family and have not expressed any menace towards her.  Milos loves to chase vehicles along our half mile driveway from inside the pasture.  We have clocked him at over 30 MPH.  They are magnificent dogs and we feel very lucky to have them.


That’s all it takes to get Jenna to bring us our sheep.  Ask her to sit beside you then say ‘shhhhh’ and she tears off to get them.  She knows other commands; ‘come by’, ‘away to me’, ‘look back’ and I’m sure more than we even know about but ‘shhhhh’ is my favorite.  Jenna’s favorite is ‘get it’.  It’s used when there is a stubborn sheep who decides to stand up to her instead of move.  It gives her permission to nip to show who’s boss.  She loves to show who’s boss!


Nugget came to us from a friend who works next to our local four lane highway.   A state trooper pulled over a pickup truck in front of their business and, when they finally drove away, this pretty little chicken was left on the side of the road.   She must have escaped, thought she was going to the slammer!  A live trap was set but she wasn’t having anything to do with it.   She seemed lost but wouldn’t fly away.  It was two weeks before she took the bait.  She was delivered to our chicken yard and immediately escaped through our barn’s rafters.  We thought that was the last we’d see of her but she hung around on the outside of the barn and eventually joined the other ladies.  We looked her up in our chicken photo book (you have one of those, too, right?), she’s a seabright.  She surprised us when she started laying tiny little eggs, then again when she started sitting on them (and everyone else’s eggs).  She’s our only broody chicken.  We just sneak the eggs out from under her.  Maybe we’ll get her a tiny rooster so we can have tiny chicks!

Previous Older Entries