Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Visit to Under The Son Farm

I have done a lot of reading about sheep and especially Shetland Sheep, since that is the breed I decided to raise. Today, I was very fortunate to be able to visit Theresa Gygi at Under the Son Farm in Greencastle, IN and see her beautiful Shetland ewes and rams. I learned about what makes a good fleece for a Shetland. She breeds to the standards established fot the Shetlands. The colors were gorgeous, whites, light grays, dark grays, browns and even blacks and colors in between. The fleeces were from soft to very, very soft. I learned that Shetland sheep are quite bright in many ways and actually know their names. I liked the way the barn was arranged for the sheep and the feeding areas and the room in the loft that her husband made for her to keep and work with the fleece.

We spent time looking at different types of fleece and talking Assorted samples of fleece about the qualities that made them good for knitting or weaving. She suggested a hand drop spinner, until I can afford a good spinning wheel. I learned that weaving takes a great deal of wool, so I might just want to relearn how to knit and crochet. Theresa showed me some of her work and it just confirmed to me that I really want these sheep. We talked about the need to set my goals and then adjust as time goes on but essentially start slowly and stay on track. I don't want to get overwhelmed by starting too much this Spring.

After touring her pasture, barn and basement, I think I may need another building, if this adventure ever gets off the ground. But that is for another day. Thanks Theresa for your wonderful hospitality, I had a wonderful afternoon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Challenges

The cold and freezing weather has caused me to be rather inventive. I have a 210 gallon plastic tank for my truck, which is used to carry water that I purchase from a nearby city. 210 Gallon Water Tank

I use it to fill the water tank in the upper pasture, since there is no access to water up there. Whatever is left, I add it to my well tank, since my well only produces a small amount of water.

Because of my inexperience, I was having a difficult time emptying the water from the container before it would freeze in the hose, spigot and then the tank. Two days ago, the cattle needed water and it wasn't going to warm up anytime soon. There was no way I could give it to them. I ended up shoveling snow into their tank, hoping it would melt with the heater in the tank and they would have something to drink. That solution wasn't working very well. Even if I got more water in in the transfer tank, it wouldn't flow because of the ice. I had to melt the ice. I figured if I filled the tank with water and added a heater, the ice would melt. I got the water and bought a the smallest heater I could find, with enough power to heat at 200 gallons. The heater had a protective wire cage to keep the heating element away from the sides and bottom of a tank. Unfortunately, it wouldn't fit through the opening on the top of the transfer tank. I removed the cage, put a metal rod through the element and positioned it in the tank, keeping it away from the side.Tank Heater Apparatus

I didn't worry about the bottom, since it was ice. I left it in all night, checking it every couple of hours, to make sure everything was ok. In the meantime, I brought the hose in, thawed it and dried it out. By morning, the ice was gone. I grabbed a bale of hay and drove up to the pasture. I filled their tank and gave the steers some hay.

The steers were very happy.Happy Cattle

When that was finished, I was able to drain the tank into the well. I love it when a plan works.

As a reward to myself, I did something I have been wanting to do for a long time and made Shiner Bock bread. I made four small loaves. I am eating one and froze the others for another snowy day.Shiner Bock Bread

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snowy Days

It has been a long time since I had to deal with winter or any amount of snow. I found this week's snow beautiful and peaceful. I enjoyed watching it snow, shoveling the walks and taking pictures.

View of our snowy neighborhoodSnowy field


My dogs, Sadie and Freckles, had a wonderful time in the snow.

They looked for things to play with,


layed in it


and generally rough housed.

They really like each other.

It may not look like it but they really like each other. No animals were injured in this horseplay.

Once again, my neighbor proved to be a great neighbor, by plowing the roads and my driveway.

Snow Plow 2Snow Plow

Friday, January 7, 2011

Little Gifts from God

Calendar 1981When I was young, I bought baby books to fill in for each of my children but was a total failure filling them in. When Sarah, my youngest, came in 1981, I was bound and determined I would get it right, so everything she did, I wrote on a calendar. I had planned on having my brother-in-law with the gorgeous handwriting transfer it into the baby book. We moved alot and I lost the calendar. In 2001, our little girl passed away in a car accident. Today, as I finally unpacked the last box of books, I found her baby book with the calendars for her first year tucked away in it. As I read it, I teared up but thanked God for his wonderful gift.

1992 letterLast week, I was searching for some sewing supplies and came across a letter from Sarah, when she was almost 16, telling me how much she appreciated all I had done for her and how much she loved me. It was as though God knew I needed to hear from her. At the end she writes, "Oh yeah I know this wasn't written on my birthday but you get the point." which brought laughter remembering her sense of humor. She added a P.S. to the letter, "I am a daddy's girl but I have my mommy's heart!" What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Small Town Life

As I am unfamiliar with small town country life, I occasionally find certain things that happen unusual. I finally had my well and the new tank working well, maybe I should say pretty good, since I still can't use my dishwasher without it having a problem with water pressure. It stops with lots of flashing lights and a code telling me to call a repairman. I go to the circuit breakers, turn it off and on and start it again on the quick cycle. It usually gets through the second time. The rest of the pump functions were working well. I went out to the barn to get some hay for the cattle and noticed the pump panel had the red light signifying low pressure. I called the pump guy, who came out to check what was going on. It had been working when he left, the week before. He checked the voltage going to the panel and found it was very low, so he had me call the electric company. The electric company came out and everything on their side checked out ok. That meant something had happened with the new wiring by the garage pad, which provides the power to the barn. I called my electrician, a sweet local guy who could have retired years ago but just loves what the does and who he does it for. He came out tested his box and figured it had to have something to do where they dug up the old wires to the garage and spliced them to the new ones. He and his assistant dug up the wires and found that the wire had been nicked, when they did the wiring and had corroded. He fixed it and everything worked, again. The unusual happening is that everyone came out within a 24 hour period and got the problem fixed promply. No extra charge from anyone. I like living in a small town.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Back to the Business of Blogging

I have not blogged like I had planned to do. It isn't like nothing has happened but I was having a hard time writing about it. To catch you up to date, for those who don't follow me on Facebook:

I arrived in country on June 26. Signed papers to sell the house in San Antonio on June 30.

Drove to Houston, TX mid July to pack my things and get the house ready to sell. Getting the house ready was much more extensive than I thought, so I hired a handyman, who did a great job. (House sold Nov 1) I lost money on the transaction but am thrilled I sold it!

SadieAugust brought my first animal to the farm. Sadie, an English Shepherd, joined me and we immediately took a road trip to Michigan to see my Son and his family for his birthday. She was a trooper but did cry on the way there. We had a good bonding time, though.

Angus SteersSeptember brought visitors, who suggested I acquire a couple of steers to eat down the pasture, before I got the smaller animals in the Spring. I was able to find a couple of organic Angus Steers in Illinois and have them delivered to me. They will remain grass fed cattle with no hormones or antibiotics.

In September, I also took a course on goat husbandry. I learned a lot. After the class, the instructor were discussing my plans for the farm. She suggested that, since I wanted chickens, if I got chicks in the Fall, they would be ready to lay eggs in the Spring, instead of having to wait til the following Fall. ChicksThat sounded like a great idea, so I ordered some day old chicks and kept them in my garage in an empty 100 gallon aquarium.

In October, I rescued a sweet dog, who showed up at my door one Saturday morning. She is a border collie, FrecklesAustralian shepherd, who has turned out to be a most wonderful companion and can move the cattle very gently. On October 15, the chicks were a week out of being able to go into the chicken coop, when a terrible accident occured. The heat lamp set the garage on fire, while I was celebrating my birthday in Bloomington with my daughter and her family. burnt down garageI was very fortunate to have a wonderful neighbor, who noticed the fire and called the fire department. He rescued my dog and saved my house until the three neighboring fire stations put the fire out. The loss was sad, because all of my Christmas decorations, collected over 39 years were destroyed but I was so thankful that my house was still intact.

In late October, I started to run out of water, periodically. It seems the well is only supplying about 1.5 gallons per minute. It evidently never did produce a lot but it was enough to wash dishes and do laundry. It stopped doing that. I called the people who dug the well and had them come out. After a period of time it was determined that I would need a holding tank. $6,000 later, I have the tank but my problems are not totally resolved. It seems I don't have enough pressure to run my dishwasher. But that is a problem for another day.

Thanksgiving dinner was held at my home with my daughter and her family, one of my sons and his family, my former husband, his wife, an exchange student from Italy and their Morky, Sargent. We had a great time with great food provided by all.

Christmas was spent in Green Bay, Wisconsin with parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and extended families. It was truly wonderful. For me, family is everything!

This year, I am turning over a new leaf and will begin blogging like I intended to, when I first started this. I look forward to gaining more followers, as I bring in the rest of my livestock.
This year is going to be a good year!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Back in the United States

I can't believe the I am back in the United States for good. I am actually going to pursue my dream of having my own farm. While I was waiting at the airport in Bahrain, I got an email that my little girl English Shepherd had been born. She is black and white and pictures will be posted after the pups and mom have bonded. I will probably pick her when she is about 5 weeks old and is beginning to show her personnality.

As we were getting ready to land at Dulles in DC, I saw the most beautiful moon above the clouds. It would have made a fabulous picture, however we were bound with seatbelts and not allowed to get up to get cameras. I love that I arrive at the farm on a full moon.