The Fat Ewe Farm 
    and B & B permaculture farmin' 
  for the lazy you's and
 Bed, Breakfast 'n Bale


Snow Boys

Posted by Fluffy on December 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The rams have beautiful coats. Eric, the white Icelandic ram has a fleece so thick that the snow can sit on his back and never melt. The boys are most often outside of their shelter, just lazing in the uneaten hay. The only time they seem to actually go inside is when the wind is cold, but the snow does not bother them in the least. Three are hair sheep, that is they will lose their coats in the spring and regrow them in the fall and three are wool sheep, the Icelandic and the Jacobs. They will be sheared in the spring. Icelandic wool is reknown for its warmth and Jacob wool for its softness. In the meantime, the snow boys are hanging out in winter. 

The Fat Ewe Wool Project

Posted by Fluffy on November 25, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On the farm, there are three main breeds of wool sheep, plus two alpacas and four llamas. The beautiful white downy undercoat of the Maremmas can also be combed out and spun into a very light warm yarn without "scratch", though it might smell a bit like "dog". Upon observing the types of wool and the amount of fiber settling in the wool, a few discoveries have been made. The tightly coated sheep with short fibre repel the hay that falls on their backs. This category includes Niki as part Ilse de France, the Merinos, and the Jacobs. All these breeds have tight wool that is so dense, the hay can be brushed from the wool before it lodges within the fleece. The Cotswolds have a lustre wool that falls in curls. The hay does not stick to their fleece, but rather tends to fall away. However, the Karakuls and Icelandics have wool that attracts and keeps the fibers, as do the Shetland crosses. In addition, the Karakuls heavy coats of wavy long fibres part along the centre of their backs creating a further trap for organic matter to catch. The Icelandics long hairs not only attract the hay, but snag it and keep it within the fleece. Next year, putting sheep coats to protect the fleeces will only be necessary on the Icelandics, Shetland crosses and Karakuls and the others should be able to go au naturel without loss of fleece quality. The truth of the matter will be finalized when shearing is done in April. Then we shall see how much matter is in the fleeces for sure. Until then, the wool project remains under observation. 

The Fat Ewes

Posted by Fluffy on November 18, 2012 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Hmm, let's see. How many fat ewes live at The Fat Ewe Farm? There are 5 Icelandic ladies and one ram, 3 Karakul ladies, 3 Cotswold ladies, and one ram, 2 Jacob girls and two boys, one commercial mixed ewe, one Barbados Shetland ewe lamb, two Karakul Shetland ewe lambs, 2 Est a Laine Merino ladies and three ram lambs, Shetland/Barbados (1) and Shetland/Painted Desert sheep(2). That totals 26 sheep. They do eat a lot of hay, which on this farm, is forked over the fence into the feeder from the big round bales. Without a tractor, using a large round bale feeder is not feasible as there is no way to place the bales, but, it does afford contact with the animals every day. They see me, there hear my voice, and they know me and that is why I choose to do the feeding and watereing the old fashioned way. I love these sheep - to me they are very beautiful. The sheep are not fed grain and are hardy. They do have a shelter, however; even at minus 25 last week, they chose to sleep on the ground. With their heavy wool coats, they tuck their legs under themselves and the heat from their bodies actually melts the snow beneath them leaving a depression where they slept the night long. The Cotswolds do use their shelter on a regualr basis and sleep in it during any weather, good or bad. Soon, the rams and ewes will be placed together for the magic of conception to happen and then, 5 months later, beautiful baby lambs will be born and what a delight to the senses they are. I am grateful for the sheep, my beautiful, wonderful fat ewes!

The Sheep Feeder

Posted by Fluffy on November 6, 2012 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I have tried to keep the hay from going on the backs of the sheep to maintain a clean fleece, but that seems impossible. I suppose the type of wool the sheep has makes a difference. For example, Little Lamby, now Niki, has a tight wool close to her body and no hay gets inside the fleece, while the Karakuls have a long loosely  curled wool that parts in the middle of the back and tons of organic matter is lodged there. The Icelandics have a long wool that is finer, but once hay sits on the sheeps' backs, it works its way into the fleece. There are sheep coats and next year I amy sew some for winter to keep the fleeces clean. The wool is much more valuable to hand spinners if it is clean. They, otherwise, have to spend many long hours picking the organic matter from the fleece, a time consuming and somewhat thankless job, since not all of the matter can be removed and the wool is left with a scratchy feel. The E'st a Laine Merinos have wool similar to Niki, tight and close, resulting in less organic matter in the fleece. 

And then there is Dora, who really wants to get close to the food....from the inside!

The sheep feeder was supposed to keep the sheep from pulling the wool down onto other sheep as they ate. I have two feeders on the go, one constructed from wood and the other is simply a livestock panel, now out of the fence. The panel/fence space is the receptical for the hay and the sheep stick their noses through the fence to eat. This works for some, but not all, because the horned sheep cannot get their heads very far in. So they use the wooden feeder. Sheep are little piggies. Where ever I am loading a feeder, they want to be right there to see if the hay is greener on the other side of the feeder. Hence, the hay must be lifted over the feeder rails and some falls onto the backs of the sheep. I try to lure them to the other feeder by adding hay there first, but they follow me to the wooden feeder and the tamest are covered with hay. Wouldn't you know it, the tame sheep are those with the loose wool (except Niki). Oy. There must be a solution. Maybe next winter the sheep will all be wearning neon coloured coats!

The Panda Brothers

Posted by Fluffy on September 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The twin ram lambs were born to a Painted Desert Sheep mother. Both were rather large and her first babies. She birthed them both standing up. I have noticed that about primitive sheep. They tend to give birth easily and in a standing position, while the man bred sheep (improved) lay down and often need intervention. The mother was excellent as well, watching carefully over her boys and ushering them away from humans and danger. She had plenty of milk for them too, another excellent trait. 

I only had Shetland ram last year so they were bred to a beautiful black Yuglet Flecket pure Shetland and passed his coloring on to every one of his offspring. The boys look like panda bears with beautiful head and lovely horns. One has striped horns that are very remakable. Both ram lambs and in tact and not related to any of my sheep except two half sisters. Although I would like to sell them, I am not too bothered by keeping them with the idea of breeding them for colour and hardiness, but they are small as Shetlands are and here people want supersized animals to eat. They are in with 2 pure Jacob ram lambs and one Barbados Blackbelly/ Shetland cross ram lamb and make a cute bunch of boys at this point!

Little Chicks and Lost Sheep

Posted by Fluffy on August 25, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (1)

It was a fairly standard day, but rained lightly the whole day. I spent a great deal of time on the phone with the Telus people regarding the stick that I get internet through, not working.They finally conceeded that the problem was the thunderstorm last night and much of Alberta and Saskatchewan who rely on sticks are without internet. It has not worked for most of the day. 

After chores I took the dogs for our pack bonding walk in the woods. We went to the northeast trail and back through the center of the quarter. The sheep had not returned for the night and it was already getting dark. I took the dogs and we combing the northwest corner, then the bush to the west and finally the bush to the south along the middle. We went halfway down the meadow but the sheep have never gone that far, ever. They stay right around their pen. Sure enough they were in the southwest corner with the llamas. I wonder if they had been chased there by a dog or coyote or something. I was glad to see them but I could not get them to budge. They were frozen. Finally they began to follow me and I released the dogs. They herded them quickly and efiiciently all the way back to the pen. Robbie and Joseph were waiting for me when I finally got home, a lot slower than the sheep and dogs. I praised them profusely and am deeply grateful for their work tonight. 

The little chicks are doing marvellously. The hen with 12 has 8 little ones. After she abandoned her nest with only two hatchlings, I put a heat lamp on the rest and managed to hatch more, however, the eggs were so dry that two could not get out of the shell and two did not try. I am happy for the hen that she is a mother after 21 days of sacrifice. The other mom has 2 little ones and both hens are clucking proudly to the little ones, calling them to get warm under their fluffed up feathers. Nature has a wonderful way. It is much better to allow natural hatching and not incubate eggs. The mother hen knows exactly when to warm her little ones and when to take them to teach them to forage for food. She is showing them what to eat as well. The poor hatchery chicks are brooded in buildings, never seeing the sun or smelling the fresh air. How much better to allow the love to unfurl as it was meant to be. 

And Then the Rains Came...

Posted by Fluffy on July 28, 2012 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I had the pleasure of a very special visit this afternoon. My cousin, Lucy, came to see me. We grew up close. Our mothers are sisters and they, plus another sister, remained the three Muskateers, very close, that is until my family moved to the west coast in 1969. I was 12 then. I moved back for one year when I was 19 to go to university in Edmonton and my boyfriend at the time and I visited Lucy and her husband Willis fairly often. She is one year older than I am and I have always looked up to her. When you are kids, a year is a huge difference. It is amazing how much alike we are, how our paths have taken similar steps and how we have arrived at like conclusions from completely different backgrounds. 

After she departed, though promised to come again, the weather had begun to change. I wanted to build a shelter for the ram lambs since they did not like to share the potbelly pig shelter and that is where they are temporarily being weaned. I got some old pallets and some plywood which I had taken from a different hut I put together last fall, plus a piece that was cut incorrectly for the floor in my home by a contractor. I put the pallets on two landscape ties as skids and screwed them down, then put the plywood around the pallets on two sides and the top. This shelter will be adequate for most of the year. For winter I may screw on more plywood on one side to block the winds. Otherwise it will be fine for the rams. Currently there are 5 rams, but 3 are for the freezer, though there will be a Finnsheep ram joining the two little Jacob boys. The shelter is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and will be large enough for 4 sheep...perfect.

I was grateful for the cool wind and the clouds that covered the sweltering sun, but I also knew there was a timeline. The thunder was heard in the distance and the flashes of lightening could be caught above the trees. I finished the shelter, then fed the pigs and put the other animals to bed, gave them clean water and brought 4 dogs into the porch. Their houses are next to build. It just started to sprinkle when we came in. Now there is a real downpour. I am thankful there is shelter for every animal on the farm. Harley now sleeps under the back stairs of the Bed and Breakfast house in inclement weather and sometimes in the dry corner of the barn, but he does not want to come inside the house ever. The rest of us are all dry and snug in our hovels. And then the rains came... 

Is She a Jacob Cross?

Posted by Fluffy on July 14, 2012 at 2:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I bought a sheep last year before I had ever seen a Jacob. The man told me she was a Jacob, but I have since learned that she is not. She may have some Jacob in her, but she is a hair sheep, shedding her wool naturally. Perhaps she is a painted desert sheep? 

She is a great mother keeping her two ram lambs in tow and watching over them. They are rather striking in appearance but inherited the hair from the mother, not the Shetland wool from the father. 

It would be nice to know what she is.

Letting the Sheep and Goats Free Range

Posted by Fluffy on June 23, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I have been using electric net fencing for a year, well, in the summer that is. It is very time consuming to take down and set up 4 rolls of wire fencing every 4 days or so, for that is how long it takes for the animals to demolish the pasture inside the boundary. A local farmer suggested letting the sheep and goats go now. He said they are trained to come back to their pen for night so they will come home. I was concerned about them going onto the highway but there is a 2 foot wire fence along the highway for the most part so perhaps they won't bother. Sheep and goats can go anywhere it seems they really want to. They have been busting through the electric net fence, obviously getting shocked but once one goes through the others follow. One got caught and tore up a section. I thought I would give the free range idea a try then so yesterday I let them go. They loved the variety of leaves they could munch in the bush but they came to the pasture for water and to rest before going out again to eat more. Around 6 they did all come home and were asking for their bit of grain, so I closed the gate to keep them safe at night and fed them. It seems to work so far. I am somewhat worried that a fox will take a lamb though, but I will see. Yesterday, the Icelandic and her two ewe lambs, and the bottle fed lamb and the orphan Jacob ram lamb did not follow the animals in, but Robbie and Joseph rounded them up and brought them running. Good dogs. The Icelandic is a leadersheep, that is a sheep trusted by the flock to lead them to safety and away from danger and to good pasture. She does not flock though. She scatters, so it is not easy for the dogs to herd the whole flock. There are a few who scatter other than the Icelandic. 

Anyhow, I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed that the free ranging will maintain the lambs safety while allowing them to forage at will. In a few weeks it will be time to wean the lambs, so for a month they will be kept in a pen away from the mothers. The goat babies are just about to be born, though, so weaning them won't be until fall. I may bottle feed a few to tame them and sell their mothers who are not very tame at all. I am not sure how to manage the free ranging with such young babies. They will have to go back into the wire net electric fence, at least the goats will. I am thankful I have the option to make things work!

Little John and the Pink Bucket

Posted by Fluffy on June 14, 2012 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (1)

Little John was weaned early because he has 4 horns, like his mother and his father. When he butted his mother with those budding horns, she jumped and I felt it best to separate them. Little John cried so hard for days until he had no voice and it has never fully recovered. He lived in a pen away from his mother for 4 weeks, but I put Niki in, the little lamby whom I bottle fed, for company and the 2 orphans from the East Frieisan triplets, so he was not alone. Then Stephen came, another Jacob ram of almost the same age, but Little John cried for his mother. When I was sure she was dried up, I returned him to the pen and he recognized her and ran to her with a great sense of relief. She accepted him and they are side by side since. 

Little John, like all sheep, likes grain. They get a handful or so each to help train them to come in at night and it works, though I do not like to feed them grain. The problem is that the goats get some grain and they are currently cohabiting with the sheep, so everyone gets some. Little John decided he wanted to get the last of the bucket and stuck his head in getting those horns lodged inside. Then he could not get the bucket off. He lifted his head and walked into the fence and kept crying, poor little guy. Finally, without my help, he tossed the bucket off and ran out to find his mother. Now that was cute!

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