Monday, February 28, 2011

Camera Fail

I was extremely excited to see my camera waiting on my porch as I got home on Friday! I rushed inside to get it set up and had some difficulties due to the "creative" wording on the instruction manual. Saturday morning I finally got it figured out, and I was able to see the barn from the computer in our basement. Unfortunately I found out that Ustream and Livestream, the sites I was planning on using to broadcast the live feed, worked with USB cameras, not wireless IP cameras like mine. I really wanted all of you to be able to watch and monitor Purl with me, but I figured as long as I could log in at work and see the feed from the barn, it would be better than nothing.

Unfortunately, the camera (or our router) isn't strong enough to send a constant signal, so the feed gets interrupted. It's not reliable enough to be worth the money spent. Right now I've got a few options:

1. Return the camera and say heck with it
2. Keep the camera and use it in the house to watch the dogs (might be fun, but do I really need an $80 camera for that?
3. Buy a range extendor antenna (looks like prices start around $35) and hope it works
4. Buy an inexpensive security system that is wired to a tv monitor, then use a regular old USB webcam to monitor the tv (a round about way, but might be my best bet)

So I'm going to think about my options. I wish I had $400 to spend on a really nice barn camera system, but with my few animals there's no way that's worth it. If any of you are technologically inclined, I'd love to hear any other ideas!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Still Pregnant and Milking Scene

Purl still hasn't lambed, and I'm pretty sure now that she didn't settle on 9/21. She must have come back into heat and been bred on 10/8. When I first took pictures of her udder on 2/9, I thought it didn't look as big as it should have if she was that close to lambing. She really bagged up after that though, and I thought perhaps she was just waiting until the last minute!

Her "new" due date should be on or around March 2nd. The good news about that is that hopefully the webcam will be in before then. I can't wait to have it set up!

I don't have a picture to go with this post, so instead I'll post a picture of a print we have hanging on our mud room wall. It's a Gene Matras print called Milking Scene. One of my good friends' moms bought it for me from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival several years ago, as a late birthday present. I just loved the scene and how she resembles me a good bit. I love that the boys are helping out and she's teaching the younger boy how to milk. Plus, I love Jerseys. It makes me want a big barn and family milk cow.

He's got lots of other great prints too. He does a great job capturing farm scenes. I love the lamb print, and the pig. This haying print is a great one too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Update on Purl

Much to my disappointment, there's really nothing to update! Purl is resting very comfortably and is in no rush to have those lambs! I've been checking her 'round the clock since Thursday and every time I go check her she's eating hay or laying down chewing her cud. The girl likes her food. Speaking of food, I also have been bringing her treats so she won't mind me checking her rear every few hours. She loves carrots and broccoli, and she didn't hesitate to gobble up my last bite of oatmeal cookie!

Her udder has definitely bagged up more since the last time I showed you. Pictures below. Fair warning! :-)

I am still waiting on the camera to arrive. Hopefully it'll be here soon! I can only take off so many days from work...

A Hat for Marc

Poor David gets asked (by me) all the time if he ever needs any hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters, etc. His answer is always no. He tells me it's not that he doesn't like my knitting, it's just that he probably wouldn't wear what I made him and he doesn't want me to waste good yarn or knitting time making something that won't get used. I'm ok with that. :-)

Luckily for me, David's friend Marc said he wanted a hat with ear flaps on it when I mentioned I was knitting something. I jumped at the chance to make something for someone!

I found this pattern for a basic ear flap hat, then went to my stash to pick out the perfect manly yarn for Marc. Marc likes the outdoors and I wanted something that would really match him. The main color yarn is Adrienne Vittadini Bianca yarn in color 4933 Chocolate. I love this yarn. It's very soft and feels great to knit with and to wear. The contrasting color stripes are both Patons Classic Wool yarn, but I can't remember exactly which colors.

I think it turned out great, and he likes it which is always important!

If you click to enlarge the picture you can see the green stripes more clearly. The only thing I wish I'd done differently is knit a smaller size. The pattern said that the medium would fit most adults, but Marc is tall and I thought I should knit the large just in case. It was too big. I felted it slightly (after I took the pictures) and the hat fits great now, but the ear flaps are still slightly longer than needed. It will still keep him warm though!

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Kitchen

I have been wanting to paint the kitchen since we moved in (almost 2 years ago). I finally got around to it yesterday! I have to say, I LOVE it! I don't know why I waited so long now. I was extremely intimidated by the thought of all that cutting in. I finally did it, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be!

Before: (this is a picture from the listing when it was for sale)

And after!

The paint looks slightly greener with the flash, and slightly more blue without the flash.

I think it makes a great backdrop for pictures!

I don't know what color it is though. I bought the paint from Lowe' was in their bargain bin marked down to $5! It must have been a custom mix that the person didn't like. I'm so glad I was able to find it. I love the color and you can't beat that price!

I can't remember the last time I saw my kitchen so clean! If only it would stay that way!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Rough Morning

This morning at 6:30 I was getting ready for work and heard a funny bleat over the baby monitor. I thought perhaps Purl was in labor, so I went outside to check. I opened the barn door to see Purl stooped and pushing. I was excited! Babies! As soon as I caught a glimpse of her tail end, I knew there was trouble. Instead of an amniotic sac or hooves, I saw a vaginal prolapse. Uh oh. Vaginal prolases are exactly what they sound like. The walls of the vagina get pushed out of the body. The ewe feels something "out there" and keeps pushing, which makes the prolapse worse. I've only seen one prolapse before, and that was on a 10 year old ewe from the campus farm when I was in college. Hers was only the size of a tennis ball, and had never gotten all the way out of the vulva. We used something called a bearing retainer, or spoon, and kept her from prolapsing more until she lambed. Purl is only 3, and her prolapse was about triple the size of a grapefruit.

I quickly got June and Darla out of the pen and returned them to the pasture. I ran inside and got a bucket of warm water and put some iodine solution in it. I haltered her and tied her to the fence and washed the prolapse. I tried to push it back in, but she kept pushing against me and trying to push it back out. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it by myself, so I put in an emergency call to the vet.

The vet came a little while later and went to work. He gave Purl an epidural so she wouldn't strain and push the prolapse back out. Then we elevated Purl's back end using a dog crate (I didn't have any bales of hay or straw) so gravity would help things settle back in the proper place. He thoroughly washed the prolapse and slowly pushed it back into place. He waited a few minutes for her to settle down and stop pushing, and then he did a Caslick suture. Caslick sutures are stitches in the vulva to keep the animal from prolapsing again. Luckily he gave her a local anesthetic, but it still looked painful to me!

Purl won't be able to lamb with the stitch in, so I am on round-the-clock lamb watch. When she goes into labor I'll have to cut the stitch to let the lambs come out. Vaginal prolapses usually occur because of the pressure the lamb(s) are putting on the ewe, so hopefully once she lambs she won't prolapse again.

I spoke with her breeder and they've not had any prolapses from Purl's mother or other related ewes. Hopefully this is just a fluke. Some say once a ewe prolapses she'll do it again. I hope that's not the case. I'm going to give her one more try next year. If she prolapses again, I'll have to stop breeding her.

For now she's resting pretty comfortably. I hope she lambs soon though!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All Good Things Come to an End

I took the ram to be processed today. I decided he was going to be our freezer lamb when he was born last February. Some people ask if it makes me sad to eat animals we've raised. My answer is yes, it does make me sad. I teared up when I drove away after dropping him off. I get sad because I watch these animals grow and take care of them and get attached to them. Even though I get sad when they leave, I know it's worth it. I know each animal that lives here and provides something for us (milk, eggs, meat, etc) is well cared for. They live out in the fresh air and sunshine, and eat healthy food. They can run and play. They live much better lives than their counterparts in the bigger-is-better ag industry today.

I also know that we won't waste the meat we get from the animals we raise to eat. We use parts that some people might not think of using (like making stock with chicken feet). This ram's bones will come back for stock or for the dogs. His hide will be tanned and used as a rug or as a seat cushion. I know when we cook lamb, we will appreciate every single bite.

Since we only have an acre, we have to use our space wisely. I can't afford the space for male animals that can't produce for us. I couldn't use the ram for breeding since he was Purl's son. It doesn't make good sense to keep him around because he'd be taking up valuable space. I'm saving space for a natural colored ewe lamb. Hopefully Purl will oblige me and have one for me this year. ;-)

It's still going to be hard not seeing him out in the pasture every day. He was my love bug. He got hugs every single day. I'll definitely miss him.

Hurry Mr. Postman!

I just ordered this camera from Amazon. I made $60 from egg sales, chicken sales, and craft sales and I just couldn't wait any longer! Estimated delivery is 5-8 business days. I hope Purl can hold out, but I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't. I hope the camera works and the signal is strong enough!
Still no lambs yet, though Purl is bagging up more. I think I estimated her due date wrong. Gestation is 145-150 days, and the Feb. 13th was a tad on the early side. February 18th (two days from now) will be day 150, so hopefully we won't have to wait too long!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Communing with Sheep

I spent some time out in the barn today with the Darla and Purl. June got moved back into the pasture because the ram was being very bossy with Darla. Darla is meek and mild compared to feisty June. June put the ram in his place in no time flat.

I went outside for a bit today since it was so warm out. I wanted to spend some time with the girls. I brought my camera and took lots of pictures. These are some of my favorites.

Purl is so photogenic. She's got that classic sheep "look".

Darla on the other hand..... Well, I love Darla too. She's got more personality by far, but she's hard to take a good picture of. Her head looks like a bowling ball with wool on it. You can hardly see her eyes or even her ears!

Beautiful sheep...

And Darla. I think Darla is practically the cutest sheep to walk the planet though. She looks like a gigantic teddy bear. I don't know if she'll win any photo contests though. ;-)

And this is what I did. I fed the girls carrots (I can even hold one in my lips and Purl will take it from me), and I laid in the straw and relaxed. And listened to them munch on hay and chew their cud.

Purl chews each cud an average of 57-63 times before she swallows it again. She's like clockwork.

These are the things you learn when you hang out with sheep.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Japanese Surrender

Today I was out in the yard when I saw a folded up newspaper in our flower bed. I bent down to pick it up and noticed it looked old and out of place. I opened it and found this picture:

It was from the Baltimore News Post, dated August 14, 1945. Very cool! This is the other side:

I came inside and showed David and then went online to see if newspapers from that date were worth anything. I found an answer that said titles with something like "Japan Surrenders" were valued at around $10-$15. The paper we found didn't have a headline like that, but we still thought it was cool.

An hour or two later I saw another newspaper stuck on a reflector at the end of our driveway. I walked down and this is what I saw:

The front page with the surrender headline! How cool is that!

Here's the inside. It's pretty neat getting this glimpse of history.

I found several papers with these headlines on Ebay but it doesn't look like there is much demand. We'll probably keep them because David's grandfather fought in WWII and it's pretty neat that a paper that old blew into our yard. There's an auction house near us and we are pretty sure they blew over from there.

It's not every day you find a 65 year old paper in your yard.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Girls Moved In

Yesterday the girls moved into the pen in the barn. I think they like it so far. When I took Darla and June out of the pasture, Darla got pretty upset. She still has the ram for company, but she missed her girls. She's settled down now, but I know she'll be glad to see them when they return to the pasture.

Purl is pretty rotund these days.

June is getting there as well, and she still has a month to go before she kids!

Anatomy Alert!

I crutched Purl yesterday so I could see her udder and vulva. Crutching is when you trim the wool around their hind end. It really helps to be able to see everything so you can tell when they're bagging up. Plus, vulvas tend to get swollen and red when they're getting ready to lamb. It's nice to be able to glance and see what you need to instead of guessing or having to put your hands on them every day. Crutching also helps the newborn lambs find the teats better. Sometimes a lamb will latch on to a wool tag and suck and not be able to find the teat.

My coworker lent me a baby monitor so I started turning it on at night just in case Purl lambs early. This is the most exciting time!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We're Having a Fund Raiser!

I am really wanting to add a wireless webcam in the barn so I can broadcast live streaming video of the girls in the barn. Since I work full time away from home, I'm not able to check in on the expecting mothers as often as I'd like during the day. I thought it would be awesome to be able to broadcast a streaming video online so I (and all of you!) can log on and see the girls in action!

Webcams run about $80-$100, and while that's not that expensive in the grand scheme of things, I would like to have my animals and hobbies support themselves. I have been busy tonight adding several more items to my Etsy shop.

I've got 2 sets of coasters. This one in striped yarn...

And this one in variegated yarn. That's my favorite coffee mug, by the way. Everything tastes better in it.

I added a new abstract felted scene.

A new wallet/clutch.

And this set of felted flower ponytail holders.

Check out the shop in the link above or click on the sidebar link to the right!

I've got more stuff to add, so stay tuned!

Bring on the Babies!

Purl is due to lamb on the 13th which is right around the corner. It snuck up fast this year, and I didn't quite feel prepared. I do now though! It has been so nasty outside lately, the ground is saturated and we're supposed to get more snow later this week. I didn't want to take a chance on her lambing out in the wet cold, so David and I built a pen in the barn. Last year we had several blizzards, and I had to bring the girls into the barn, but we didn't have a good pen built, so they had almost free access to everything. This year will be much better.

Here's the pen in the far corner. We built it out of pallets we already had, reinforced with some t-posts.

We deconstructed a pallet and built the gate. The gate is smooth on the inside so no animals can stand on any part of it (because the hinges aren't heavy duty enough for that!). Right now I have a simple hook and eye closure, but I may have to change that depending on how crafty the animals are!

Here's a view from the inside of the pen looking towards the gate. Excuse the dust particles in the picture!

And here's a view standing in the front of the pen looking to the back wall of the barn.

It's a good sized pen that everyone could fit in if there was an emergency (like another 2' blizzard or something), but for now I'm only going to bring Purl and June in since they're the heavy bred ones. June is due March 14th.

And eventually I'd like to put a door through that back wall of the barn because the small "bachelor" pen backs right up to the barn. It would be great to let the animals access the inside of the barn when they're in that pen.

I'm excited about lambs now. Now I'm going to go give Purl a big squeeze around the middle. ;-)

Friday, February 4, 2011

In the Shop!

New in the shop today! I made this knitted then felted coffee cozy. I'm going to have to make myself one!

See it in the shop, here!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

For the Non-Believers

Can you guess what breed of chicken this is?

Leghorn? Nope. White Orpington? Nope.

She's a Cornish cross broiler! She was one of the broilers I got in June to raise for my sister. When it came time to process them, she was a little small and I wanted to keep her for a few more weeks until she grew a bit. Well, a few more weeks came and went and I decided to keep her because she fit right in with the layer flock.
She's now extremely large (and very heavy) and no longer roosts at night with the other birds, she lays on the straw beneath the roosts.

Yesterday I bedded the sheep shelter with fresh straw and she decided she needed to lay an egg in the new straw. I plopped right down in the shelter and relaxed a bit with the sheep and waited. I took a little rest and just listened to the sheep and June munch away on the straw (I know, they love to eat some of the straw when I first put it out). Finally, after about 20 minutes she got off her nest.

And this is what I found. I know a lot of people hate Cornish Cross chickens, because they say they're Frankenchickens and can't live past 8 weeks. Well, that may be true in some cases, but not in all. If Cornish crosses are allowed to free range from the beginning and fed a little more sparingly (instead of 24/7) they can live a much longer life than 8 weeks.

Maybe I should name her. Any suggestions?
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