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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Goats and Chicks are Growing!

Rosemary and Sage, my newest fiber critters, are doing great. Darrel is being a bit of a butthead to them though. He rushes them and head butts them. They run when they see him coming. I'm not sure how to make him stop but perhaps time will take care of that issue. Once Rosemary and Sage are bigger and have their horns grown in, they could be doing a little payback. Watch out Darrel!


Doesn't Sage look studly?! He has gotten so much more confident in himself. What a handsome boy!

I have decided not to clip them this summer. I'm going to let their fiber grow all winter and then do a first clip next Spring. They should have a nice, long staple length and they'll stay warm and cozy all winter long in their long coats. I just don't think the fiber is long enough to clip yet and I'm afraid they'll get too cold if I clip them this late in the summer. We could easily have snow in 6 to 8 weeks.

The chicks are growing, too. Momma hen really wants out of the coop/run area but I can't let her out to free range for fear something will kill her or hurt her and the babies are still small enough that even one of the large ravens here could carry them off.

Here is Lovalea (momma hen) with the two chicks. Supposedly the one on the left is a male cuckoo black or gray Orpington and the one on the right should be a black Orpington but I don't know yet whether it is male or female. It is considerably larger than the other one so it may also be a male.

Cuckoo Orpington chick is in back (top/center) Black Orpington chick is up next to momma hen (center of photo) and momma hen is taking a dust bath

Another photo of the two chicks with Lovalea

Closeup of the Cuckoo Orpington rooster - see the bars of color? That is what makes him a "Cuckoo"

I made a video a couple of days ago. You can see what a brat Darrel is to Rosemary and Sage. And the little chicks were so cute running around and peeping like crazy.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

New Fiber Animals Here at Split Rock Ranch!

I love working with mohair in my fiber art. Mohair is the name for the fiber that you get from fiber goats, usually Angora goats. It is silky soft, yet strong, with incredible luster (shine) and slurps up dye like nobody's business. Mohair has gorgeous crimp and curl to it. Below is how mohair looks after being washed, rinsed and dried.

And to show you how beautifully it takes up dye, here are some dyed mohair locks - see that amazing shine?!

I wasn't sure if I could handle goats or not, so two years ago I got two young Nigerian Dwarf wethers (that means they've been "neutered"). Nigerian Dwarf goats are dairy goats, not fiber animals, but I didn't want to deal with the fiber aspects of goats just yet. Well, Darrel and Gladiator have proven themselves to be easy-to-care-for and a lot of fun. So, I recently added two young fiber goats to my little herd.

On the left are Gladiator (front) and Darrel (back) and on the right are Rosemary (front) and Sage (back).

Rosemary is a Pygora goat. Her mother is a Pygora goat (Pygmy/Angora cross) and her father is an angora goat. Rosemary is a gorgeous light variegated silver color.

Sage is a full Angora wether. Both his mother and father are Angora goats. He is a much darker color. His color pattern is called "reverse badger" - he has a dark body with lighter points. He was black and tan when he was first born and has gradually lightened up to the color he is now.

I can't wait to shear these little goats so I can use their fiber in something special. I'm not sure if I'll shear them this year or not. I don't have a barn to keep them in during the winter. They have a shelter but not a barn that I can keep them in if it gets really cold and snowy. So, I will probably wait until next spring and then do their first clip. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Baby Chicks!

Several weeks ago, I sold three llamas to a young man who raises chickens. He brought 18 hatching eggs for me to slip under my Buff Orpington hen who had gone broody. Since I don't have a rooster, the eggs my hens lay aren't fertile so I felt badly that she was sitting on eggs for nothing. I would take the egg out from under her daily but she kept sitting, so I asked if I could please get some fertile eggs for her to hatch out. I am down to two hens now. The dadgum fox killed all my other hens! The incubation time from when a hen starts setting on eggs until they hatch is 21 days. I slipped 4 or 5 eggs under her on Saturday night, June 8th, just to be sure she didn't reject them, and the remainder of the eggs I slipped under her 4 and 5 at a time throughout the day on Sunday, June 9th.

The first egg hatched out some time on Saturday, June 29th, but the chick was dead. There was still quite a bit of yolk, etc in the egg so I think perhaps the hen pecked that chick out too soon. The second egg hatched out that Saturday but died a few hours later. I think momma hen accidentally smothered the poor wee thing.

Here is a photo of the first chick shortly after it hatched. Momma hen turned into Ninja Chicken whenever I tried to pick up the chick so I had to get a photo of it tucked underneath her wing.

The next morning, there was one chick already hatched out and a second one almost hatched out. Those two chicks survived and are doing well. Here are photos of the two surviving chicks, taken when they were one day old.

The young man who gave the eggs to me said the first chick (the darker one with the yellow spot on its head) is a male Cuckoo Orpington and should mature to be gray with black stripes. The second one is most likely a Black Orpington and I won't be able to tell what sex it is until it feathers out and is more mature. I'm hoping that the second one is a hen and not another rooster! I will keep them both, regardless. I guess I'll have to order more live chicks through our feed store if I want more hens this year. But, next year, with at least one rooster in the flock, we should have more eggs to hatch out and expand the flock!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Its been a very busy summer!

I haven't posted anything on here for weeks. Far too long... and I'm sorry. I seem to be pulled in twenty different directions all at once and cannot seem to get into a routine that works for me and still get everything done that needs doing around here.

In my last post, I showed you the greenhouse we installed. I got lots of herbs and vegetables planted in the greenhouse, as well as in a protected area outside the greenhouse to the east and north where the deer can't get to the plants. I swear the deer eat everything around here, including "deer resistant" plantings! Inside the greenhouse I have midget carrots, oregano, marjoram, cilantro, basil, leaf lettuce and mesclun started from seed. I also planted fennel, dill, celery and kale in with the leaf lettuce seeds. I used fiberglass wedge shaped planter boxes from an old round dome greenhouse that an old neighbor gifted to us years ago but we never got it put up because we were afraid the winds and snow here would collapse the structure. But the planters are perfect for the greenhouse we just built. We filled them with composted llama manure and everything is growing like crazy! Here is what two of the planters looked like right after planting the established plants and sowing the seeds.

And here is what these same planters look like a few weeks later. The red watering can is in the same location and you can see how huge the plants have gotten and how much the seeds have grown!

Also take note of the jars in the background - I have been using the greenhouse to solar dye fibers. I filled the jars with washed Border Leicester fleece, added citric acid (sets the acid dyes I use) and then filled the jar with warm water and sprinkled dye powder on top. I stirred the dye into the fiber with a bamboo chopstick, put the lid on it and set them in the greenhouse for the day.

Here is what those fibers looked like after I rinsed and dried them. Aren't they amazing? I love solar dyeing!

Here are more photos of the plants inside the greenhouse. I have Roman Chamomile, German Chamomile, Grapefruit Mint, Chocolate Mint, Cilantro, green pepper, tomatoes, several types of basil, stevia, ginger and a couple of miniature rosebushes, as well as a Martha Washington geranium.


The plants have grown even larger since I took these photos so I'll need to get new photos taken.

More about the new angora and pygora fiber goat babies and newly hatched chicks in my next post!

Wishing everyone a safe, fun and relaxing long holiday weekend!