Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sunflower Houses

Whether you have kids or not, Sunflower Houses is a wonderfully whimsical book to add to your garden library. The illustrations are sweet and sentimental. Who knew there were ballerinas (or princesses) hidden inside bleeding hearts? "If you gently fold back the hoop skirt of the bleeding heart, inside you will find "princess "Di" Centra". Try it! This is a view of springs past, gardens in the front and Pomeranian geese.
Dalla and her twins Glade & Glimmer,
settling down for a nap in the cool grass.

Esther's ewes Gretta and Grettle

Glade (for sale), the ram and Glimmer, his sister.
Both are black grey spotted.
Gulliver & Griffen, heading into the barn.
French lilacs blooming around the chicken yard.

Grex, a moorit grey ram lamb (for sale)

Seashell pink peony

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


My little orphans seem to be doing OK. I put them into a lambing jug and gave them a mixture of lamb pellets, kelp, and soybean meal. They really like this. I also gave them some hay and a salad mixture of fresh greens, which they also ate well. I've been trying to adapt them to a bottle, many times a day. They seem to like the milk, but can't decide if they should suck on the nipple or chew it, still. I will keep working on this, and hopefully in a couple of days, we will figure it out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Catalpa Lawn Farm

We've lived here on our farm for almost 15 years, but it will always be known as the Shippert farm. John & his brother Henry, born in Prussia moved here in the late 1800's, along with John's wife Martha (born in Pennsylvania), George Coleman, a farmhand, and Julia Julfs, a hand servant. They bought the property from William Fritts. He settled the land in the early to mid 1800's. One of the timbers in our barn is stamped with his name, along with the Nachusa sawmill. There is so much history about our farm that I would love to learn. The Shipperts had 10 children, and lived on the property until 1973. Most of them are buried in a country cemetery 2 miles from here. I always try to take the time to take them peonies for memorial day. The plants are really that old, planted by the Shipperts. A good portion of them we discovered in the "secret garden", east of our house. It has become so overgrown through the years, so I've brought many of the peonies down around the house. I love them! I've just recently discovered the original name of our farm, Catalpa Lawn Farm. I wish I knew that earlier, I would have kept it. We have ancient catalpas lining our lane to the house. They flower in June. They are beautiful, almost like an orchid, and the scent permeates the air for days. Catalpas were planted by many of the early settlers. They grew quickly and made sturdy, rot resistant fence posts.
I find it kind of sad that I'm the only person to bring flowers out to the old Shippert grave site. I know that there are other Shipperts around, close by. It makes the Shippert ghosts happy, but that's another story.
p.s. I wonder why the gravestone has the log theme?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Abigail has gone to Iceland

We lost our dear Abigail during the night. She has gone back to Iceland. This is the thought that many Icelandic breeders like to believe, and I do too. She was such a nice ewe, not our largest, but a nice muscular frame. I don't know for sure what happened, but I suspect she died of bloat. She just couldn't handle all of the new grazing that she had access to. She left behind a set of lambs, barely a month old. They are as wild as March hares, so we will have to learn how to nurture them and keep them healthy. Raising sheep, always an adventure. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Always worth it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hot spring days

Temperatures have soared into the upper 80's.
I let the sheep out to graze in the cool fresh woods
north of the "secret garden", and along the creek. This area is incredibly lush, and the perfect spot to spend a hot, muggy spring day. Belle cools off with a dip in the creek.
So far, the sheep haven't followed her across.

What weather! It's been so wet, most of the fields aren't even planted. Only 10% are in, compared to the usual 90%. They say yields will be down by 2/3.

My lavender Japanese peony is blooming.
The flowers are 8-10" across!
My iris are starting to bloom, too.
This is Choral Chalice.

This is Alice Remembered

No matter how busy I am, I always take time to cut flowers for the house. Lily of the valley, and the sweet scent of spring!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spring duck hatches

We've raised various duck breeds on our farm in the past 13 years. One of my favorite is the Muscovy. We don't lose them to predators as often as the other breeds. They are worth their weight in gold, because of the numbers of insects they eat, especially flies and mosquitoes. I like them better than geese, because they don't tear up my gardens, they aren't aggressive, plus they're quiet. We've had around 30 Muscovy ducklings hatch so far.
We don't have an incubator,
so we let the ducks do the hatching.
Every year, we lose most of them to predators. Everyone loves to eat ducklings, blue herons, turtles, hawks, opossums, weasels, raccoons, fox. There's already a few missing this year. I decided that I'd capture a few myself to raise. We really enjoy eating duck. I'd take a rare grilled duck breast over a steak any day. The Muscovy is much leaner than the other domestic ducks, with a richer flavor, almost like beef.Having a creek running through our property makes it easy to raise ducks. We feed them a little corn, but generally, they are on their own for food. I don't like to overwinter more than 10-12.

Above, is Elton, one of our drakes.

This is Elvis, our other drake. You can't see it in the photo, but he has a black crest. When he raises it, he really does look like Elvis!

We have just one Cayuga duck left, and 2 Pekings (one duck, one drake). I love the coloring of the Cayugas. They don't interact with the Muscovy, which I thought was surprising. I read that they can breed, and the resulting duck is a mule duck, which is sterile. Our Cayuga girl showed up with 10 ducklings this morning. They will be Cayuga/Peking crosses.

We had crested ducks at one time. They were a bunch of clowns. Unfortunately, the coyotes found them quite tasty!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A mystery...

We had the sheep out grazing the waterway all weekend.
They were in heaven!
Below, is a photo taken from the roof of our house.
Can you even see them?By Sunday evening, they were nearly 1/2 mile away.I don't know what we'd do without our electronet fencing...
..or our 4-wheeler to haul gallons and gallons of water. So, what's the mystery? My daughter found this set of mismatched horns clear out in the waterway. I'm sure they're from some yearling rams we had butchered last fall, but how did they get out there? Our shelties found them on the porch and chewed on the tips. They didn't appear chewed on when we brought them home.I'm sure they came from here, our sheep composting sight. What? you don't compost your sheep?
Here's a link for more info on that I took a class on sheep composting at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival a few years ago. It has saved us many hours of back breaking labor. When we have a sheep butchered, we save the heads to compost. If we have a sheep die, it goes into the compost. This is an ideal way to deal with losses. It's fenced, so our dogs can't get in to find tasty treats. I check it periodically, and have never noticed it disturbed by wildlife.
Isn't the skull a nice decorative touch? Well, obviously, it was disturbed by something. Those horns didn't get 1/2 mile from the house on their own.
We do need to do some digging, and rescue the remaining skulls and heads.
Sounds like a good job for a couple of teenagers
that I know...
The young lambs seem to enjoy the fresh grazing
as much as the adults.Unless they get lost, and can't find Maaaamaaaaaa!!!!!!!Deidra and her triplets are thriving.
She's such a dependable ewe.The black yearling ewe is Fennel. Her wool is such a deep, rich velvety blue/black. No silvering on her yet.

Gulliver (above) and his brother Griffin (below) will be moving to a new home soon, with their dam Deon.
Isn't it amazing, how fast their horns grow?
Espen will be going with them.
He is looking so nice this spring.
I'm glad he'll have a job to do this fall.

Their new home will be close by, on a beautiful old family farm. I'm sure they will be spoiled!

Friday, May 15, 2009

it just keeps raining...

This has been another wet spring. We get one sunny day, then it rains and rains.
Belle, our great pyr doesn't seem to mind.

The sheep hang out on their "porch" on the south side of the barn, waiting for the rain to let up.

Our barnyard is concrete, instead of dirt, which sure helps with the mud. It can still get sloppy though.
The view looking out the north door of the barn,
my wool house!

The sheep are so spoiled. They hate to go out and graze when it's raining. It's just so grey and dreary...

I think I'll cut some sweet woodruff to make May wine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I love spring! The sheep are happy, grazing on lush pastures. Lambs are growing!Fruit trees and crab apples are blooming. Asparagus is coming up!Even our front lawn is a gourmet blend of grasses, clovers,
dandelions, violets and more.

Skys are blue and the sun sets pink. I wish I could catch Dalla's little ewe. She is just adorable! Our lambs seem to be friskier than usual. I can't resist sneaking up on the ewe lambs and running my fingers through their soft ringlets of wool.

You may notice that some sheep are sheared while others aren't. We're working on it! On warm, dry days, we shear 2 or 3 sheep, trim hooves, vaccinate, etc. As easy as it is to have a shearer come out, I enjoy handling each sheep, checking them over and making sure they are ready for the summer season.

Emily's cute little ram lamb.

Cierra's twins, snuggling up with mama on a cool spring morning.
Yes, spring is finally here.