Sunday, August 25, 2013

The County Fair

We went to the fair with Teen Son’s FFA.  We all met in a parking lot at 8:30 and moved our trailer to our sight at the horses stables at the fair grounds at 9:30.  By 10: we were set up and ready for Darling Husband and Teen Son to go home.  The youngest 2 and I spent the night at the fairgrounds.  The next morning Teen Son was up at 5:am to help load animals onto the stock trailer to bring them to the fair and was back at the fair grounds at 7:am with all the FFA animals. 
Notice Teen Son, in the blue jacket standing calmly while all the other kids are stressing with their animals.

The day of Market Judging (judging to see if we had an animal that was market worthy and eligible for auction) arrived. We thought we had Penelope perfectly trained.  I sat in the stands to and watched Teen Son and his sheep enjoying each other and posing in the proper positions for judging.  I was so proud so many of the sheep were jumping and stressed out, Penelope just stood there calmly as Teen Son scratched her. 

 Then the judge said Penelope had too much "that needed to be trimmed off" – meaning she is fat.  FAT!!!  As soon as they left the ring a FFA parent and grandparent came up to me and asked me if Teen Son had been given lessons on how to show his sheep.   I said no just how to position her.  It turns out you want an animal that is tense when the judge touches it so the judge can feel her muscles.  It isn’t about just standing and posing your animal.  We also decided that Penelope needed to be sheared again Poor Girl!  The next time the judge saw Teen Son and Penelope in the show ring the Judge told Teen Son he had made great improvements and Penelope should have done much better in the Market Judging. 

The kids with animals at the fair are up at 6:am to clean the pen, clean the animal, feed the animal, and make sure every thing is ok.  Then they get to come back to our camping area and have breakfast.  While the fair is open groups of kids are in charge of keeping the animal’s area clean.  The kids who are showing cattle wash and blow dry their steer or heifer’s coat making it nice and fluffy every day.  All the animals need some exercise every day.  Since Teen Son had heard that Penelope was fat he ran her every night, and practiced with her every day.  The animals are fed again in the early evening, we would have a meeting at 9:pm, then they would check on the animals one last time before bed. 

We sold Penelope at auction and bought ½ a pig, Black Ops, at the fair.  We picked him up at the butcher 2 weeks after the fair and he is delicious. 

We had an amazing time getting to know a lot of the other FFA families.  It was very nice having a trailer at the fair.  We could go and walk around then when we were tired we would go to the trailer for a snack and nap, but 10 Days is a long time to be at the fair.  Next year Teen Son is hoping to do a lamb and a turkey.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Not for the Squeamish!

We had a bull calf born Easter Morning.  The problem with bull calf’s is if you do not want a bull you need to castrate it.  There are lots of reasons not to want a bull; their meat is supposed to be tougher, bulls are more aggressive than steers or cows, and if you do not want to pass on your bull calf’s genes he better get fixed.  The time frame to castrate calves is up to 6 months old, or beyond.  Information we find varies.  We have been procrastinating doing his.  Everytime I mention Egg’s needing to be castrated Darling Husband changes the subject.  My son had a friend who had offered to help but again procrastination has been how we have spent our summer. 

I decided I would try to catch Egg and take care of him me and the kids.  Egg doesn’t let us get close to him so I figured it would take a few days to catch him.  I started feeding the cattle and had the rope with me.  I threw out 2 flakes of hay and one bucket of fodder and Egg decided to eat next to me.  I dangled the rope and somehow the loop went over Eggs head and I had caught Egg!
There I am in the middle of the pasture with Egg on one end of the rope and me holding the other.  This is the closest I have been to Egg in months so I am not letting go.  The rest of the cattle are angy that I have stopped feeding them so they are circling me mooing.  None of the kids were up yet. 

 So there I stood…..


Every once in a while Egg would get mad and start running and I would try to keep up with him.  A Dexter 4 month old calf is much smaller than a full size calf so it’s probably only about 150lbs but it isn’t easy.  Try holding a large dog.  Not Easy!


The rest of the cattle were making sure I knew I had not finished feeding them. 

Finally Pre Teen Daughter arrived, she has a broken collar bone so I do not want her helping with the cattle BUT she was able to wake up her brothers.  The boys finished feeding the cattle for me then they came out to help me Teen Son herded Egg to a big branch and we tied him there.  Then I sat with Egg while Teen Son ate breakfast and made sure Egg didn’t strangle himself.  Then I went and bought the elasterator (remember I thought it would take days to catch him) and bands.
 When I came home we tried to put Egg on his side so we could castrate him using two more ropes.  As I tried to put the rope around Eggs legs he jumped over the log and he and I got tangled in the rope around his neck I ended up falling on the log with my side and Egg fell on top of me.  We called College Daughter to help us and while we were waiting for her Teen Son and I got Egg into position. 

Finally we are in position and I put the band on the elaserator and try to put it over his balls.  They are too big!  I couldn’t get the bands over them.  We let Egg go.

I am beat up, I have no skin on 5 inches of my arms.  My fingers, hip, ribs, and back are bruised, and I have nothing to show for it!  Next time it will take days for me to catch Egg.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shearing The Sheep

Our first attempt  with Deer
First attempt with Blackwell

The wool sheep needed to be sheared and Teen Son’s FFA sheep needed to be sheared. Teen Son’s FFA teacher loaned us her shearers.  We decided to start with one of the sheep that will not be shown at the county fair.  We started with Deer and the shearers did nothing to her fur, we actually pulled more off with our hands than we cut off.  So we it tried on Blackwell and it started going through but it was a long slow process.  It took 30 minutes to get one hip done. 
Teen Son contacted his teacher and she told him to wash Penelope before we tried shearing her again.  Penelope did not enjoy being washed but we got her done and then the shearers worked a little better but still very slow.  Poor Penelope got immensely board, we got tired and frustrated. We stopped torturing her when she was about 1/3 done.
 We called the feed store we normally use and they do not carry shearing supplies so we went to the other store and bought Large Animal Clippers.  A man at the store said he had just used them to shear 20 sheep so awesome! We bought them.  We were able to shear Penelope but still painfully long and not beautiful so we cleaned them and returned them.  By now poor Penelope was about ½ sheared. 
I ordered Oster ShearMaster Shearers.  $300 and a few days later as soon as UPS dropped off the shearers we sheared Penelope quickly and easily after school one evening.
Penelope finally sheared.
The other sheep checking out Penelope.

Let me take a break to talk about the process of sheep shearing.  If you look up how to shear a sheep on You Tube you will see lots of videos of people (mostly large men) flipping a sheep up on their butts and holding the sheep against the mans body with one hand and shearing the sheep with their other hand. When the sheep are flopped on their backs or buts they seem to pass out or relax.  Blackwell would lick me while we were trying to do it.  This works great if you are over 6 feet tall and strong. – I am neither!  We watched hours of the videos looking for a way that didn’t break my back.  When it came down to it, it was much easier for me to hold our sheep either on my lap or them standing and me sitting in a chair.  Maybe if we had wild sheep the flipping them around might be better. 


Saturday morning we start shearing, I held the sheep while Teen Son used the shearers.  We started with Maxwell because I caught her first and she is the most skittish so we thought we would get her done first.  Maxwell was sheared quickly and easily with our new shearers.  She had one slight cut.  We were super confident.  We grabbed Dot and she was so relaxed while we were shearing her she kept reaching for grass to eat she took a step while we were not holding her skin tight enough and took a slice out of her leg.  We called College Girl and asked her to bring home some antibiotic spray for Dot's cut. 
Blackwell before

Then we started on Blackwell and decided to have fun with her hair cut and we left the wool long around her neck like a lion’s mane.  We were able to trim Blackwell with just a few nicks.
When we finished shearing the sheep and they all were together again Penelope realized she was not the smallest sheep she was the biggest!  She spent a few hours pushing the others around and butting heads to make sure everyone knew she was a big girl. 
Blackwell after, being told by Penelope "I'm Bigger than YOU!"
Teen Son took Penelope to be weighed and his teacher felt she needed to be resheared, again, so her wool would be shorter.  Teen Son contacted the breeder we bought Penelope from and asked her to help us.  She came with a shearing stand!  It is pretty similar to a goat’s milk stand and we put Penelope on it and she gave us a lesson on shearing.  Unfortunately her shearers were not working right.  She showed us how our shearers are shaped badly and make it easy to cut the sheep.  She and Teen Son got the wool on Penelope much shorter.  We felt very successful.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Birds

Palm, Laurel, Hardy, and a Stooge

It has been a long time since I sat down long enough to give an update.  We were given the opportunity to purchase our neighbors house.  I had hoped to get it and keep it as a rental but it has turned out to be way too expensive for us to keep.  Buying it has allowed us to take care of some drainage problems it has that leads to drainage problems for our property.  It has been a lot of work but it will be worth it every time it rains. 
I will try to update you on all the animals as quickly as I can. 
Palm trying to impress the new ladies.  The Shrew told him she was not interested and to stay away from her and Tomas.  

Las time I wrote we had 1 Tom turkey, Palm was hopefully a girl, we had the 2 turkey hens, and four babies.  All the baby turkeys died; 2 died in their box, 1 ran off and we couldn’t find it, 1 went in to the roosters pen and was killed.  While we were fixing our Flip House we forgot to lock up Dakota and he broke out of the house.  He killed one of the turkey hens and one of the chickens.  A few weeks later a coyote got the other turkey hen.  So we were left with just Palm and Tomas.  Palm is looking like he is a boy but Palm still has not started getting any black marks on his feathers so I am starting to think he may be a different breed than the Royal Palm.  We were looking new turkey hens but it took a while to find some close. 
Tomas strutting his stuff.

 We found 2 mixed breed hens.  We brought home Lolita and The Shrew.  They are 1 year old and we are getting an egg about every other day from them.  I have made some awesome scrambles! 
The chickens stealing fodder.

Most days all the birds roam free so often we find eggs in unexpected places.  Letting the birds free range has cut down on our bug population.  I had hoped they would break up more of the sheep and cattle poop but so far they are not going into the cattle pasture unless they are stealing fodder in the morning.