Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chicks redux

Our final count on the incubated chicks was four. Five actually hatched, but number 5 passed on this morning - he had a really hard time, and just wasn't strong enough to survive. A couple of other eggs pipped, but the chicks didn't make it out.
Last time we tried incubating we were 0 for 12, so this was definitely an improvement. The new guys still walk like a bunch of drunks, but they're getting steadier by the hour. We put them and the Buff Orpington chicks together in one bin, and left the Cornish crosses in the original bin.
So we've got 22 little peepers in our living room at the moment, happily eating, drinking and pooping. And napping. They're really big on the naps. They'll be walking along, then suddenly stop, sit down, and go to sleep. Five or ten minutes later, they're off again, seeing what life has in store now...

Friday, May 29, 2009


We got chicks!!
Here's hatchee #1 (center) and hatchee #3 (upper left)

And hatchee #2
These pics were taken through the glass window on the top of the incubator (which is where the fog is from in the second picture - that's condensation on the glass. Have to keep the humidity up so the eggs and membranes are soft enough to peck through.) And you can see another pip on the egg at the bottom of the second picture.
Number 1 has been drying out for a couple of hours, #2 is an hour old, and #3 is only minutes away from eggshell. Hatchee #3 is from that first pipped egg in yesterday's post - it took him a while, but he made it.
They're horribly clumsy - gravity is a real bitch when you've never had to worry about it before.
More eggs are rocking. Madman and I are keeping a close watch and cheering them on.
Go, go, go, little guys, go!
Number 4 is just about to make it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't count your chickens before they hatch...

Here's the other reason the early delivery was inconvenient:

We've been incubating a dozen eggs, trying to time them so we'd have chicks hatching at the same time as the ordered chicks arrived. That way we could raise them all up together in the early stages, and sort them out later.
If you look at the egg at the top of the picture, you'll see a "pip" - there's someone in there, trying to get out.
We tried incubating once before, but didn't get any chicks. I had to throw the eggs out on the compost pile. (I detonated a couple of the little sulphur-bombs out of curiosity. Nothing in them but plain ol' rotten egg.)
So even if we don't get any chicks, we're still pretty pumped that we got this far...

On a sad note, I've had some bad family news. More when I know more.

Pickin' Up Chicks

No, not that kind...

This kind:Of course, procrastination bit me on the ass again. The chicks were supposed to be delivered tomorrow, not today. (Who ever heard of a delivery that came in early?? What kind of nonsense is that?) We'd planned to hunt up and sanitize all the equipment today and go get the chicks tomorrow - and we won't mention the fact that we ordered these chicks weeks ago and could have had all that stuff ready to go.
So, I rushed through all today's errands (and I still think I've forgotten something important...) and then stopped in at work to get a cardboard box on my way to the feedstore where the little peepers were waiting. Rushed home with a box full of panicky peeps, hunted high and low to track down all the scattered equipment, washed, disinfected, set up, and freed the chicks in their new home.
They've now all had a drink, a snack, and a poop. Happy days.

We've got 6 Buff Orpingtons (the darker colored chicks - they'll be a beautiful golden-yellow when grown) and 12 Cornish-Cross (the light yellow ones - they'll be white and tasty when grown.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grand experiments in Kinnearing sheep

Silly me. We've finally gotten Odetta, at least, to accept the fact that we're actually friendly creatures who bring food, and scruff behind her ears, and don't necessarily eat unsuspecting sheep. So, when I got home from work today (and yes, I do have to work Memorial Day Weekend. The joys of retail...), I took the camera out to get a few close up pictures of the girls. I was especially hoping to get a pic of Odetta giving me kisses. (She's a real licker, that one. I have to be sure and keep my mouth closed, since kisses from a sheep are one thing, but French kisses from a sheep are entirely another...)

Who knew that sheep would be afraid of the camera?

Instead of running up to me (and the cup of feed I was carrying...), they ran to the other end of the pen and stared. And stared. Suspiciously. That little silver rectangle was a Scary Damn Thing.
Aha! I thought. Kinnearing. I tried hiding the camera with my left hand, while extending the sheep pellets with my right. Shaking the cup and crooning finally tempted Odetta over me, but that camera makes a little tiny whispery click that spooked her before the 'shutter' actually took a picture. I got this:

No sheep.
I tried again. This Kinnearing is harder than it looks...

A lot harder than it looks...

This was the best one I got:

And this one.

I finally gave up, got out of the pen, and tried a few more conventional shots. Goldie got brave and came to eat some grain, but Odetta was still suspicious...

Finally. But as soon as the camera clicked for this shot, they bolted for the far end of the pen again.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Last Jury Duty ever (I hope)

I had my last jury trial yesterday. Hopefully that will fulfill my civic duty for a long time to come.
The case was a Fish and Game offense. I don't know how it is in other states, but in Vermont, you can request a jury trial for a Fish and Game issue. (You can even get a jury trial for a parking ticket if you so choose.)
Our defendants were charged with Taking a Big Game Animal Out of Season (specifically, a deer) and Possession of Big Game Taken Out of Season. The whole case rested on an unattributed phone call to a game warden. There was no smoking gun, no carcass, no witness - and the only physical evidence was 3 photos of some packages wrapped in bloody freezer paper and ziploc bags, labeled with a date for the previous year (when a legal deer had been taken.) We found both defendants Not Guilty, since we didn't believe that the state had proved any guilt 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' There were way too many perfectly reasonable scenarios that the prosecutor hadn't eliminated. Whatever our private thoughts were (and more than one of us thought there might have been something shady going on), the evidence was not sufficient to convict.
The funny thing is, the trial itself only took about an hour and a half. We deliberated for close to 4 hours... They had to send in lunch for us. We even had them play the tapes of most of the testimony over for us, to be sure that what we thought we had heard was what we actually had heard.
Imagine if it had been a murder case - we would have been in that little room for days...

The good news is, I took my knitting:Finished the cuffs for my Drops Sweater!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I acquired a few more gray hairs this afternoon.

Like I mentioned, we needed to make another pen for the girls, since their original spot was grazed right down to dirt. Madman had most of the fencing up for the new pen, before I realized what he was up to, so I hurried out to give him a hand. I helped hold the last post while he hammered it in with a sledge. He was giving it one last tap when disaster struck.
The sledge slid off the top of the post, skittered down the side, and whacked him on the thumb.
Now Madman is a model of self-control. He didn't scream, he didn't swear (and where he got the fortitude for that, I'll never know!) He did, however, clutch his bleeding thumb, and do what any normal human would have done under the circumstances.
He did the Oh-My-God-That-Hurts dance. We've all done it. It mostly consists of stomping and jumping. When I do it, it usually involves swearing, as well, but Madman is made of sterner stuff.
Our sheep had apparently never seen the OMGTH dance. They went into complete panic - running and milling and jumping. Simultaneously.
The worst was when they both jumped straight up into the air at the same time, collided, and Odetta bounced off the top of the fence, flipped, and landed Outside The Fence.
Madman and I gasped so hard, I think we sucked up all the available oxygen in the immediate area.
Odetta (now oxygen-starved...) started running in circles. Madman tried to get behind her to block her from taking off cross-country while I tried to simultaneously move-slowly-in-order-not-to spook-the-sheep and run-like-a-madwoman-for-the-grain-bin-for-bait.
We've started the taming process, but are nowhere near finished. Odetta certainly didn't trust us at that moment (we might be sheep-eating-monsters, after all) and she couldn't figure out if she should run for the hills, push herself back through the fence, or stand in one spot while having a nervous breakdown. So she alternated between the three.
Goldie, in the meantime, was having her own issues. The only thing she asks out of life is to stand next to Odetta. With Odetta outside the fence, Goldie had a complete meltdown. She was running in circles in the pen just as fast as she could go, bouncing back and forth in the corners, then taking off again. We were afraid she would hurt herself or escape, either of which was a Very Bad Thing.
We kept trying to keep Odetta in our yard, working ourselves around, and crooning to her, trying to keep the panic out of our voices. She'd run around the pen, run 20 feet away, run back, pause, and repeat. She took off at one point, and ended up down the hill in the neighbor's yard - the neighbor on the corner by the road. The road with cars that would either kill a sheep, or panic a sheep even worse than she already was.
Gasping again. She ran around the neighbor's pond, then luckily turned back up his driveway instead of heading out into the road. Madman got behind her again and urged her back up the hill to our house.
Eventually, just before we both collapsed with heart-attacks, she accidentally ran into the new pen - which was still open in two places. I slammed a pallet against one opening, and Madman guarded the other spot while working the old fence loose long enough to scoot Odetta through into the old pen.
Goldie basically welded herself to Odetta, and the two did a two-step around their pen, while Madman and I tried hard not to cry from relief.
The only thing that saved us was that Goldie didn't get out at the same time. Odetta kept coming back to be with her flock (Go Goldie! You're a flock!) If the whole "flock" had gotten out, we'd have to be hanging "Lost Sheep" posters on every telephone pole in the county.

I had to sit down and spin to calm down. A beer was good, too.

And, are you in the mood for some irony? At NH S&W last Saturday, my MIL and I were watching the sheepdog demo (as we always do) and I said "We only have two sheep and they're pastured in our front yard. I don't really think I need a sheepdog."
This afternoon, I would have sold my firstborn for a sheepdog...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Oh, no!! It's blackfly season!

I planted a few of our tomato starts in the hoophouse this morning, then tried to do a little weeding in the flowerbeds.
And was attacked by the little bloodsuckers. I react badly to blackfly bites - I swell up and itch and itch and itch. Not so bad when they bite me on the arms or neck, but when they go for my face, my eyes swell shut and turn purple. I end up looking like a regular at Fight Club.
My choices were to weed with one hand, while flailing at blackflies with the other hand, or to give up and go inside.
I went inside.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Out my window

Look what I saw out my window this morning!
I had to take the pictures through the window. If I had gone out with the camera, the sheep would have started running in circles. They will tolerate one or the other of us, but feel threatened when we're both within sight.
So we have to take turns scritching our sheep... Odetta enjoys being petted and crooned to, but Goldie is still too skittish to get close. She stays a sheep's-length away, keeping Odetta between herself and the human. Any sudden moves, and she's off like a rocket to the other end of the pen.
And you can see from the grass that we'll have to be moving their pen this weekend. They're eating/trampling the grass right down to the dirt. If we keep moving the fence, they won't be overgrazing any particular spot. (Though it looks like we may have waited a little bit too long for this patch. It's all a learning curve.) Between the front yard, back yard, and up the hill by the woods, we have lots of places to move their pen.
I made a run to Tractor Supply this morning to buy fenceposts. We managed to scrounge some free fencing! Cheap is good, free is even better!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden bounty!

Last night we had asparagus from the garden - the first of the year. It was only 4 spears, but it was still our first harvest and we savored every bite!
And I cut enough rhubarb to make a rhubarb cobbler.
Veg and dessert - woohoo!

Odetta is getting a little more accustomed to us. Though bribing her with sheep pellets is helping in that area. We can now scritch one out of two of our sheep...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I believe it's called Camnesia

Or being a dumbass. Maybe both...
I took a camera to NH S&W. I even took a couple of sets of extra batteries.
The only thing I didn't take was pictures.
Luckily I had a fabulous time, so memories will have to serve in lieu of pictures... I grabbed my fabulous MIL bright and early this morning, and we did the festival up right. I swear we looked at everything, fondled the fiber, patted the lambs, snogged the alpacas (just for you, AnnaMarie!), watched the sheepdogs, and enjoyed the hell out of all that was offered.
I met Gale (one of us spells her name wrong - guess which one?), and Judy (who is practically my neighbor when you consider the size of the planet.) I somehow managed to miss Norma, though. Rumor had it she was around somewhere, but apparently not wherever I was at any given moment. And I met Manise, though she pointed out that we had actually met at VT S&W last fall, but I was so excited that day that my brains fell out of my head and, what with the general dizziness and drooling, I didn't remember at all...
And Laurie and I finally caught up with each other, with Judy's help. (Thanks, Judy!) We got to have a nice visit, chatting about knitting and spinning, showing off our newly acquired treasures, and she had lots of good advice for me in my continuing struggle to quit smoking. (She's a wise one, my Laurie!)
Every festival, it seems, is the best one ever - and I think this one left all previous ones in the dust. My brain is brimming over with new ideas sparked by all the wonders I saw today, I've got a new sock book (my dad is so getting the piggie socks for Christmas this year...), and my spirit is refreshed by talking to friends old and new.
Best. Festival. Ever.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Headed to NH S+W tomorrow!!

I will be carrying this bag:

And probably the little purple/gold one as well. (That's my small project bag. I'll be toting around my slipper...)
If you see me before I see you, feel free to give me a nudge!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Last Jury Draw

There! At least that's over with. I was selected for a jury that will sit on the 22nd, and then they can't bother me for 2 more years.
Wanna know how laid back we are in Vermont? I was allowed into the courtroom with this:
Why, yes, those are very sharp pointy metal sticks... (Size 1's, in fact!) They ran my little knitting bag through their big x-ray machine, and handed it right back to me.
I seriously thought they would draw the line on that bit of knitting!
So, while waiting to be called up for voir dire, I managed to get this much done on this slipper project:

though I think the upper right square may be pointing the wrong way. And since it's the second square, that involves ripping out two whole squares to fix it. I might decide I can live with it...

Odetta is definitely the Head Sheep around here. It might be because she has a badge:
and Goldie doesn't...

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Sheep Saga

I may or may not have calmed down a little. Maybe a little. Though I tend to show pictures of my sheep to everyone I encounter. "Wanna see my sheep pictures again?"

We had talked for years about getting Shetlands, always with that "someday" stuck in the sentence. Madman and I fell in love when we saw our first Shetlands at Vermont Sheep and Wool years ago, and have drooled over them at festivals ever since.
Then a couple of weeks ago there was an ad in the local Trading Post for a black Shetland ewe lamb for sale. Madman saw it, brought it to my attention, and we dithered together for a bit. Should we? Can we? Shall we?
We shall.
But when he called, the lady said she'd gotten attached to the lamb and decided not to sell her. (Tragedy! Disappointment! Devastation!) But maybe we'd be interested in a 4-yr-old black Shetland ewe? (Joy! Dancing! Ewephoria!)
Her name was Odetta.
The only problem was, we needed another sheep to keep Odetta company. Sheep are social creatures and don't thrive without companionship. They need to be part of a flock - even if the flock is small. Two is just a very small flock.

The nice lady gave us a few names and numbers for other Shetland breeders, Madman made some calls, and we found Goldie.

A few more phone calls, and we were all set up to pick up both sheep (at two different farms, luckily within miles of each other) on Sunday morning.

We had just bought two sheep over the phone. Forget all the advice about conformation, checking teeth - all that scientific stuff. We bought two sheep over the phone...

Sunday morning, bright and early, we spread a tarp in the back of the car (and we all saw how well that worked...), packed up ourselves and our friend M who was visiting for the weekend, and headed off to become shepherds.
Odetta joined us first. Madman and M rode in the front, and I was in the back seat, calming Odetta and making sure she didn't try to join the guys in the front seat. It wasn't her first time riding in a car, so she took it pretty calmly, especially considering the bumpy curvy roads we were driving on. (Rural Vermont in springtime. Bumpy curvy roads are a given any time of year, but springtime also gives us potholes and mudpits. Driver beware.)
When we got to the second farm, we not only got Goldie, but that nice lady gave us a bale of hay, too. Since we had decided that M would ride in the back with me, to help keep sheep in the sheep area, the bale of hay ended up in the front passenger seat. I kept a tight hold on Odetta while everyone else quickly stuffed Goldie in the back and closed the rear hatch.
Goldie, however, had never been in a vehicle before. She didn't know why she was in that weird pen, but she didn't like it much. She kept trying to turn around and face the other way. (Note to Subaru owners: The back of a Forrester is big enough for two Shetland sheep to turn around in, if both sheep agree that they want to turn around. If only one wants to turn around, it can be a tight squeeze, especially if some poor hapless human has her arm stuck back there because she was patting a sheep trying to keep it calm.)
Luckily, by the time we got to the interstate, both sheep had calmed down. They were looking out the windows with great interest as we headed for home.

Picture it: 3 humans, 2 sheep, and a bale of hay, packed into a Subaru.
We got some interesting reactions from folks passing us on the highway...
Odetta just mooned them.

Goldie's owner suggested we might want to change her name, since she doesn't respond to it anyway. But when we got her home, we discovered she has golden knees - (they're much brighter in person than in the picture) -

so we decided Goldie was just short for Gold-knee. And since she doesn't come when we call her anyway, it doesn't really matter what her name is...

We spent most of the afternoon just sitting and watching them. "Oh look! Odetta's eating grass!" "Oh, oh, oh, Goldie's drinking water!"
Good times.
Check out the fancy sun-shade we built:

Tarp with bungee cords. Nothing but the best...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Meet my new BFFs!

The black one is Odetta, the light one is Goldy.

*insert the biggest happy sigh you ever heard*

I'm going out to take more pictures.

But here's one more - this is what happens when you haul two sheep in the back of a Forrester, even if you put a tarp down...

Sheep Sheep

On our way to pick up sheep!!!! Film at 11.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two more sleeps to sheep

Counting sheep doesn't work anymore... I just start jumping up and down and chanting "sheepsheepsheepsheepsheepsheep!!"