Lately…

fall

The grass is all gone now, and there is an inch of snow on the ground. These ladies were fed hay in the valley to try to persuade them from eating the grass all the way to the ground. Much of it went dormant but they definitely prefer grass to hay.

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This is what the valley looks like now. Sorry about the dark picture…I used my iPhone after the sun was setting and it was just as cold as it looks. We went on a little hike on our property to find a Christmas tree for our home.

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It feels pretty special to not have to leave our property to get a tree. Since we moved from California to Colorado in 2010 we haven’t had to buy a tree. Even before then, we had a planted tree in a pot that we would bring into the house and decorate, then place it back outside when the holiday was over.

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My hubby was in Canada for work for 3 weeks before Thanksgiving so the kids and I roadtripped to Idaho to meet up with him and his family. It was pretty special. The drive was beautiful. This is in Monticello, Utah. It is right near Moab. I am not fond of the desert, I much prefer trees and water. But on a cloudy day when it is cool, I can see the beauty easily.

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We are back home now, and it has snowed and been really cold. We have spent this week with the kids back in school, getting ready for the long winter and making sure the water heaters for animals are working, they have shelter, cleaning barns before their poop freezes to the ground, and today we are getting ready to shear 4 lambs that will become meat tomorrow. I must say, this is the saddest day of the entire year for me. Many of these animals view me as their caretaker/mama and I feel disloyal with what has to be done. But we believe it is the right way to eat meat and we never have to worry about what was added to our food or how the animal was treated. They live happy lives with their mamas and nurse until their mom weans them. We also get beautiful lambs wool before they become organic nutrition for our family and others’. It is sad, but I feel lucky to be able to raise so much of our food, honey and fiber on our land in just the way we want it.

Prepping for Winter

The nights are getting cooler every week here which means many different things to us. I love fall…it is by far my favorite season in the Rocky Mountains with all the leaves changing colors. I feel like I get to live in a rainbow for a good month.

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It also means that we have some big chores to get on such as splitting and stacking firewood, cleaning out wood burning stove (which we use 24 hours a day from about November until early March), cutting weeds, buying, transporting and stacking hay for the winter, and separating our ram. We managed to get about 2 cords of aspen wood stacked and have about 3 more to go.

We have been trying to tackle some of the mullein and thistle that grow so fast here in our environment. We spent a day this last week cutting them down, then tossing them onto a fire to kill the seeds and prevent their spreading. This is typically how we control weeds at our home since we don’t use any chemicals. The sheep do a pretty good job as well. Though they won’t touch the mullein, I have seen them eat the purple thistle flower, which I appreciate deeply.

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There are always lots of worms and ladybugs as we manage our earth here, which I love.

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We haven’t gotten to stacking hay yet, though we do have about 30 bales at this time. We estimate that we use about 12 bales per winter, per sheep. We try to sell lambs and get down to our core flock of about 9 to 10 sheep every winter. Last year we went through about 120 bales, and my sheep are always well fed. I prefer to err on the side of fat sheep rather than skinny sheep. It gets pretty cold in the winter, and with pregnant ewes, they need a lot of food. I think this is part of the reason that we have never lost a lamb, and always have super healthy babies born every spring.

As for Bruno, my ram, he has gotten very ram-y the last two weeks. The BFLs and Shelands wait until the nights cool off to begin going into heat, at least up here in Durango. I am worried that I waited a few days too long and he may have bred my girl Blue yesterday. The ewes kind of present themselves and want to hang out with the ram when they are in heat and that is what was happening. Bruno is a big boy, at about 300 pounds and he is really intimidating this time of year. He behaves more like Ferdinand the Bull during the spring and summer, but once his hormones start raging he can be really aggressive. I missed a near ramming two days ago just for bending down and petting one of the lambs.
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So he has to be separated right now until November when I let him breed my ewes. I find that it is more difficult (on me) to have babies during the colder months, and it is definitely more expensive to have heat lamps, purchasing of straw, etc. I aim for March lambs, right when it begins to melt snow here. I can also shear the mamas before they lamb, which is the only way to go as far as my experience has shown me, to save their beautiful wool from getting too much vm in it.

 

September

We are into our second week of school and I am finding myself with more time and space to slow my busy and sometimes high-strung mind…it has looked a little like this…

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(please look past my dirty windows. who has time to clean windows that end up killing the little birds that fly into them? not me)

The oaks are just beginning to have a hint of my favorite color palette of the year…oh fall is so inspiring, especially here in Durango.

We sheared our two cross Shetland/BFL sheep last week. Below is my boy Rain before…

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Then Rain after…

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And then…the wool…

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I bought a new shearing stand so that we can stop paying the shearer to come out every spring. He did a pretty bad job on the shetlands so we thought we would do it from here on out. We are by no means pros at this, but the stand makes it so much easier because you don’t have to hold the sheep down the entire time. This is Abby below.

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Both Rain and Abby grow wool so fast. Their lock is about 4. inches long and we sheared them in March, so if we wait an entire 12 months it is longer than 6 inches, which the wool mills don’t like.

We are learning and have gotten our blades sharp for the next shearing, which is the end of November when some of our lambs will have to go to the locker…a very sad day for us…the saddest of the year. But it provides my family with organic nutrition and the lambs wool is of course, amazing and doesn’t get any softer.

Finally, this last weekend we snuck in a bit of camping past Lake Lemon. It was wonderful and grounding. We all needed a little of that. The kids took a picture of me knitting which I kind of love, especially with the tiny finger on the right side of the frame.

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Lamb Update

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All of our beautiful ewe lambs have been sold to a really great farm here in Durango, CO. I am super grateful for their future with Eric at Koru Healing. I am keeping a ewe lamb for myself, and am taking the boys with me to Estes Park Wool Festival this week. I have been busy preparing wool roving, labeling some yarn that I am having a hard time parting with…

yarn3…and knitting this shawl from Caterpillargreen Yarn¬†for our favorite preschool teacher that loves rainbows.

Here are a few photos of the homegrown, organic wool that I will be selling at Estes Park Wool Festival. All the yarn here are from our little flock. All the roving is as well. Some of the roving and yarn I hand dyed with natural dyes such as madder, cochineal and indigo. We even used rainwater for the dyeing and mordanting with alum because we have a little rainwater catchment set up and I thought it would be great to use a neutral ph for the water.

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The white, off-white and black/grey colors are undyed and just natural from the sheep. I also have quite a lot of roving that is available as well for sale, just not in the picture.

It feels so good to be a (very) small part of a product that is safe for the earth, safe for your skin, and safe for the happy animals growing it.

Bluefaced Leicester Lambs for Sale

I have 5 ram lambs and 3 ewe lambs for sale. All are fully registered, Bluefaced Leicester lambs born on our property at the end of March and beginning of April. They are all happy and healthy with their tails docked and weaned just this week from their mamas. They all really have beautiful fleece, especially the ram lambs this year. I am asking for $225 per lamb, and $400 for the black ram lamb…he is exceptional, both in body, fleece and attitude. Please email me if you are interested. I will also be at Estes Park Wool festival next week with some of these babies too!