The Fat Ewe Farm 
    and B & B

...organic permaculture farmin' 
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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!

Whatever Happened to Little Lamby?

Posted by Fluffy on October 27, 2012 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Little Lamby was not mine. She was a triplet rejected by her mother and then was given to a friend. He was going away for the weekend and asked if I could take her home and bottle feed her as a favour, but the weekend turned into a week, which turned into a month and she is still here. I got the feeling..well, it does not matter anymore. She belongs to The Fat Ewe Farm now and will live out her life here. This winter she will be bred to  Cotswold ram at the ripe old age of one year. There are two breeding rams this year, the Cotswold, which is a larger sheep bred for meat and their amazing wool which grows in long curls if left to be. The other ram is an Icelandic with a touch of Shetland and he will breed the smaller sheep, the Karakuls, Icelandics and the Shetland cross ewe lambs. The Cotswold will breed the E'st a Laine Merinos and the Cotswold, plus Little Lamby, who is now named Niki. She is still a delight and comes to me though she no longer follows me at heel as she would have her mother, thank goodness. She turned out to be a pretty sheep, if sheep can be pretty and has quite a nice coat of wool, even though she was sired by a hair sheep. Her mother was a wool sheep though and those are the genes she seemed to inherit as far as her coat goes. Pretty Little Lamby, Pretty Niki, is going to be a fat ewe!

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. 

Lena's Lamb

Posted by Fluffy on July 14, 2012 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Lena is a beautiful Karakul sheep. She is so pretty, she could be on a Christmas Card. Karakuls are polyestrous or can have several breedings a year out of season. Her last lamb was born on January 14th, a pretty little girl. Today she gifted the farm with another stunning little lady, now named Denise, in honour of my daughter. Denise will be kept for breeding here at the farm. She is a Shetland/Karakul cross and is large and robust. Thank you Creator for the miracle of birth and sheep and thank you Lena for your lovely baby. 

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!

Karakul/Shetland Lamb Born Today

Posted by Fluffy on June 19, 2012 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (1)

Dora is the friendliest sheep. She comes whenever she sees me and just wants to be petted and acknowledged. Today she had her first baby, a little ewe lamb. The lamb looks like a Karakul with little Shetland influence. These sheep are the ones raised for Persian lamb fur coats, or were. The lambs have to be slaughtered within a day or two of birth or their tightly curled black pelts begin to unfurl, ruining the lamb coat fur. It is almost unfathomable that men would kill such a beautiful creature for the pelt. What I love about sheep is that they give us the gift of wool without having to be sacrificed. Dora actually tried to bite me many times when I came into the hut where she birthed her baby. I left them alone for the morning, brought her some fresh long grass and water and simply let them be. Still she would not venture forth, so I took the lamb and lured her out to pasture. Once outside she began to relax and by the end of the day, she was calm and friendly once more, though watchful of her little one. When the little one would not go in the pen for the night, I picked her up and carried her in and of course Momma sheep followed. Then the rain came and she ushered her baby into the shelter. Isn't she beautiful!

Why I Like Primitive Sheep

Posted by Fluffy on May 23, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The ewes were only fed good hay during their pregnancy and lactation. The man bred sheep (East Friesians) lost condition and were too thin, while the primitives, the Jacobs, Karakuls, and Icelandic remained fat and healthy. Their bums remained nicely rounded while the others hollowed out and their bones were prominent like a cow's. The primitives carry their wormloads better too and often do not require worming. The primitive's lambs are vigorous and gregarious and sometimes downright silly. They like to climb the sides of their rain shelter and get to the top then jump down, but their tiny hooves have torn holes in the plastic, which will have to be replaced. Still, their adventurous spirit is fun to watch as they play with each other and practise their antics. Today, there were some field peas left over from the goats' feeding, which the ewes went made about. They were too busy eating to worry about their little ones playing. How wonderful our world is!

Little John and Fairy Fay

Posted by Fluffy on March 16, 2012 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (1)

Fay was born on January 14 and John was born two weeks ago. I have been observing the little ones and though they are not the same age, they play together. They butt their heads together though it is more of a head touch than a butt. John's 4 horns are plainly sprouting and so far Fay is not showing any horns. Shetland ewes have horns and Karakul ewes do not, so she could go either way. They really are adorable. 

I decided it might be worthwhile putting little Lamby in with the sheep. She needs to learn sheep behaviour, including eating hay and head butting with the other little lambs. When I first put her in the pen, she was terrified and cried out to me with a loud pitiful voice. I went inside and she calmed down immediately, placing herself between my knees for security, as she would have with her mother. The sheep were very good with her generally. They very gently butted her out of their way when they were feeding, just enough to encourage her to move. Jean, John's mother, heard her cry and being a new mother herself, felt the heart strings pull, so she went over to investigate. She called to the lamb, but Lamby did not understand having never heard a sheep before. I returned after a few minutes to feed little Lamby and she curled up on the straw pile for a nap in the sunshine after her meal. She will be fine, I hope. 

Tonight I am thankful for the chicken who gave its life for my supper, one of my last year's Orpingtons. Thank you chicken and bless your soul. 


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