Monday, October 25, 2010

changing seasons, sheep, quilts, and SNAKES!

Fall is here! The temps are 50-60 during the day and the 30's at night. It is supposed to freeze here tonight. The grasshoppers, or whats left of them, have probably bedded down for the winter. Rumor has it that we are going to have a warmer dryer winter here this year. Dennis is finishing up what is left of the garden, the squash, the last to be harvested, is all picked and he has been tilling in all the organic matter, the garden should get better every year. Ahhh, the change of season. With the harvest, alas, also comes the harvest of the turkeys, one by one they will be going. We were going to keep a trio of them, but we shall see. They were a lot of work, but I really enjoyed their antics. So inquisitive.

Last night the guineas were locked in the back yard and roosted on the deck. When Dennis was ushering them back out of the yard, he noticed right outside our fence a lone coyote, watching. He stopped and watched for awhile, he could see the coyote occasionally making big leaps, just like a dog or cat would do whilst hunting some unforeseen prey in the tall grasses. I have read articles on coyotes, that they will watch a farm and learn their routine, before making their move on the poultry. I wonder if this is what he was doing. Dennis has seen him a few times, just out of reach, watching, waiting.

Two weeks ago, one of out chickens was running around the yard with something hanging out of her beak. Now if you have ever watched chickens, what one has the other wants, so the rest of the flock was giving chase, trying to run down this chicken and steal its catch. This was going on for sometime and Dennis decided to join in the chase and see what all the interest was. Lo and behold was he surprised to find it was an almost 12 inch baby rattle snake.
You can see the 2 rattles on the end of the tail.
A friend of mine in AZ used to call these "buttons". Rattle snakes in AZ are easier to ID from a distance as they have "coon tails", black with white rings around the end of their tails, except of course for the deadlier Mohave snakes. I am glad that the chicken got this snake, as the smaller the snake, the more venom it injects, since it does not know how to control it yet.

We took a road trip to Byers Colorado to pick up our two new Katahdin hair sheep. The trip was uneventful, and everyone is settled in at our place, once they figured out that the dogs were not going to eat them. They are quiet, except for feeding time, and not pushy like the goats are. The girls are Dido and Marble, guess which one is Marble?
They are only 4 months old, so still have some growing to do to reach their full size. I am glad that we were able to obtain the sisters, as they are very attached to each other, and do everything in unison.
They shed their coat in the spring,their hair feels coarse, not spinning quality, it is hard to describe actually. Nice to have an animal that is relatively maintenance free. Of course they do need occasional hoof trimming, and deworming if needed. You will also notice that they have long tails. The difference between goats and sheep, other than chromosome wise, is that sheep hold their tails down, and goats always have their tails up, unless they aren't feeling well. Sometimes it is hard to tell the two apart, if you don't have experience with livestock.

When I moved here last year, I signed up for two quilt classes. One was a stashbuster, using up fabrics in my stash, finishing unfinished projects, etc. Here is a quilt that I started in Arizona, and am just now finishing. It is a bee and flower quilt, with a black background, something that is out of character for me. But this quilt turned out quiet stunning, the black with the primary colors.
It will be perfect hung on the wall of a certain little someones bedroom.
My other class was a sampler block of the month quilt. We just got the final instructions of how to finish this quilt last Saturday, so hope to show you that one, but probably not soon.

My first hand knit sweater is coming along, I have the torso all finished, and half of one arm. Of course I ran out of dyed yarn, so had to try and match the shades, not to successful on that one.

As fall harvest wanes, there is still much to do outside. I have feeders to fix so animals don't get exposed to wind and rain when feeding, shelters to ready for the arrival of the winds and snows. Of course, weather and joints cooperating. My goals for this winter after keeping warm are a few more quilting classes and to get my looms up and weaving.
More later...............

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Anterior Uveitis, Turkeys, Elk Festival


Of the eye. Inflammation of the iris and ciliary body. Causes are infections, trauma, organophosphate poisoning. I rule out trauma in my alpacas case, since it affected both eyes to some degree. And I don't think that she had any kind of brain injury.
Yep, Sara Lee has it. It was very rapid onset starting in the left eye, which turned all blue, and she was totally blind in that eye, and then it started in the right eye. The vet said that he has never seen this in alpacas, but has seen it in horses, and it is called "moon eye". The treatment that we started was IV steroids, SQ antibiotic, along with steroid eye drops and antibiotic eye ointment ever 2, yes, every 2 hours. I did this for 4 days, before I saw any improvement. Now a 8 days later, there is blueness in the top 10 percent of each eye. I have titrated down on the frequency of eye meds and will keep an eye on here. Hopefully this will not return. She has her vision in each eye now, so I am happy about that. Camelids are very sensitive to steroid use, but I opted to have an alpaca that can see, not a blind one. The vet also commented that the good thing about "moon eyes" is that it is not painful. I was relieved about that, but boy did she look like something out of a horror film for the first 4 days. This is the normal eye color of an alpaca, and Sara Lees eyes look like this now.

The turkeys are always displaying their tail feathers when the are first let out in the AM. I caught some exceptionally good photos of their displaying ritual. They also make a puffing sound, Dennis can't hear that however. Here is a picture of 5 of the 6 males displaying to a female walking in front of them.
Note their blue heads!

Some turkey facts that I read in a recent Outdoor Life magazine, and on line sources. Juvenile hen turkeys are called Jennies. An old Master hen is usually the leader of a flock of mothers and young turkeys. They stay separate from the males, or Jakes which are 3-6 month old males. The males make a lot of noise with their gobbles and fighting to establish pecking order, so they attract predators, hence the females stay away from them. The females I have observed to make a twittering sound, kind of like the Predator movies, the sound the alien makes. Only the males gobble, and it can sometimes be heard a mile away. They can run 25 miles per hour, and fly 55 miles per hour. They have between 3,000-5,000 feathers. The males have a worm like thingy on top of their nose called a snood. They also have a wattle on their chin. Both of these turn bright red with courtship or excitement or anger. The snood can be very long, but also can be retracted to an inch. Turkeys almost disappeared in the early 1900's when their #'s dropped down to the 30,000, now they # in the millions. They can see movement 100 yards away, but have poor night vision. Just some interesting facts on turkeys, not to mention their popularity at Thanksgiving time.


We went to the elk fest in Estes Park Co last weekend. The most captivating part for me was the bugling contest. These folks grow up hearing these majestic elk every fall doing their calls. They had cow/calf calling along with bull elk calls. The youngest caller appeared to be around 3 years old and was oh so cute, and good at making the calls. At the end they had professional callers. The commentator said in the years past, they have sometimes had a bull elk run into their midst, all sweating and snorting ready to take on the challenging male. but that did not occur this year, however there were some calls made that were not on the program.
We were entertained by a Lakota Sioux Indian, who played this stick type instrument, It sounded woeful,lonely and mystical at the same time, like the sound of a Loon on a Minnesota Lake amidst the early morning fog.
We took a bus tour and viewed elk herds at rest, on the golf course, and a school football field.

You can see about 5-6 bull elk on the outskirts of the large golf course herd, waiting for dusk no doubt to start challenging the herd bull.
On our bus tour we drove by the Stanley Hotel, where the movie "The Shining" was filmed. Awesome. I am definitely going to tour that some day. It was gated, and you have to make reservations at least a day in advance. I wonder how many saw Jack Nicolson peering through the half closed doorway with his maniacal grin saying "heres Johnny?"
Ryan, Julie, Lili and I, enjoying a sandwich to the sounds of the babbling creek. Dennis was the camera man.
Here is little Lili enjoying all the festivities at the festival. A real people watcher at this stage of her life.

It is in the 50's here today, the wind is howling from the north, it is a grey, dreary day. There is snow in the mountains. I bet it will not be too long before our prairie will be blanketed in snow. Best put my winter survival gear back in the vehicle. We still have not turned on our furnace, but no longer sleep with the windows open. The time is nearing..........
More later................

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Harvest, To do lists

I guess that I had to wait for the harvest moon to write down my thoughts...Fall is finally here-our weather has plummeted from the 90's to the 70-80's. Last night we were 42degrees for a low. We are still sleeping with the bedroom window open-unwilling yet to let go of summer, not yet having our furnace on.
We have been in a drought the past few months, rain measured only in the hundredths.Wild prairie fires are the norm here. But we have been safe so far. The pastures are all brown and parched, yet the grass hoppers are flourishing, despite my crew of hungry birds. Here is a picture of my 8 Bourbon Red turkeys posing for the camera. Two of the turkeys are hens. Can you pick them out, a clue is, they are standing next to each other.

Projects are many for us here however. I start a lot of projects as my "wheels" are always turning. Dennis says we should finish some of them, before we move onto another. I have to take full advantage of his strength, since he turns 60 his next birthday, I need to get while the "getting is good" so to speak.
A recap of of some of our finished projects
The Wishing well, finally finished.

some of my canning accomplishments this past summer, our garden was not the best this first year, but with the adding of compost from the animal barns, our garden should be getting better every year. Also the drought did not help any either. We did have a bumper cucumber crop, so I put up about 32 quarts of pickles, yes, there is going to be a lot of pickle giving come Christmas this year. I also canned beets, wild plumbs, sauerkraut, and am in the process of doing tomatoes as we speak.

I did get the deck stained, and my 6 deck chairs sanded and painted also.

I am getting my two Katahdin ewe lambs next week, and we got our isolation quarters all set up for them.Note the little Quonset hut for the sheep. These are so useful for small livestock and so easy to move around.

I always practice bio-security when I bring any new animals onto the property. I check for parasites, any blood tests that I see that they need, before putting them on our pastures. Good animal husbandry to practice. I am getting my ewes from Dave Andrus, a near genius in the picture taking department. Here is one of the pictures that he sent me. The colored ewe is named Marble. This picture almaost looks like it could be painted on the ceiling of a church.

The electrician is finally done with our wiring of the barns, chicken coop and my sewing room(he started in July). I had a large light put up above my work area. Last night I started painting my basement floor. Battleship grey, and the inside side of the squares will be a dark maroon color.I had a hard time sleeping last night, as I want to get this project done!

I finally started my sweater. It is from Coopworth sheep fleece. I did all the processing myself. Washed the full fleece, carded, spun, dyed and finally am knitting my first sweater. I am making this for all those 20below winter days, hoping that I won't have to wear 4 layers, and be bundled up in a blanket all day in front of the fireplace. 100% wool sweater should definitely help. This sweater is knit from the neck down, and no seams. Yippee. I have to finish the sleeves yet on this.This is a close up of the colors, it was actually a dye job gone wrong, but the results are nice.

One of the highlights of this summer was getting together with my red hat friends and going to Terry Buffalo Ranch in Wyoming. We started off our tour with the restaurant, I had the 1/3# buffalo burger, very tasty, but not greasy like beef tends to be. Then we jumped aboard their train and toured their property. They had various types of animals, wild mustangs, llamas, camels, goats, cattle, and even a trout pond on the premises. But the one animal that impressed me the most was a beefalo they had. It was a buffalo crossed with a Texas Longhorn. The thing was huge with a white stripe down its back, also a kind of brindle hair coloring on the back. The guide said that it is not a good cross however as they tend to develop arthritis in a few years of age, and start falling apart. I could see the swollen knees on this fellow. But the smaller buffalo sure stayed away from him.

I just finished chores, still in the 40's, cloudy, and somewhat misty this AM. No outside work for me today! I love days like this, a lot of girlie stuff to get done!

More later..........