25 December 2009

Primary ram out

Got the primary ram Desert Weyr Kai out from the ewes pen late today. He is the first ram for the control group of ewes. There will be no rams in for 2 weeks and then we'll put 2 new rams in as backups for the AI group and the control group.

21 December 2009

Winter Solstice

Farms mark the year by the solar calendar.

The solstice, the traditional mid winter festival when the sun starts to return. For us too the solstice is turn-around time. The days when the sun seems to stand still are our time to do a yearly reflection on the past year. We evaluate the goals accomplished and plans for next year.

Chores are delivering food and water to the critters. I spend my mornings watching fluffy sheep get fat and play in the snow. They make sheep nests in the bedding pack for warmth. I watch the breeding ram to be sure he is doing his job. The current one in with my control group of ewes may be a candidate for baatwurst. He seems to be butting the ewes more than he is breeding them. The ewes will get another ram in January so they should get pregnant. We'll know when they lamb who the daddy is and if Kai failed to breed ewes he's sausage.

Chickens are all hunkered down, snug in the coop but in jail and they are not happy so I take hay and chicken treats to them and talk to them when I gather the eggs. Chickens are actually quite social and like to be talked to so I cluck at them and pet a few friendly ones.

The dogs also make their own nests in the hay and the old dog snuggles in between warm sheep when it gets cold. The horses frisk in the snow in the warm sun but stand huddled neighing for breakfast when it's cold. I have a lot more time in winter so I am doing some hobby things that never get worked on in summer: knitting, spinning, doing a puzzle, reading. Winter is a time of reflection, more thinking and planning than doing on a farm. It's a good balance.

I hope you all have an enjoyable winter solstice.

08 December 2009

Big Snow Storm

We woke up to a lot of snow today.

The ram lambs are covered with snow.

A couple were just resting comfortably in their sheep nests.

Cwningwn AKA Bunny was staying in her private house. She is getting alfalfa pellets because she doesn't have many teeth left so she is by herself so the other sheep don't steal her food.

Ken shoveled a path to the chicken barn.

No heat from the solar system today. No sun and the panels have snow on them.

03 December 2009

Sheep AI Experiment 2009 Part 4 - Inseminate the Ewes

Next day is the ewe insemination day.

this is the insemination pipette. It's a modified pig insemination device. It is carefully threaded into the ewe.

Ken had to hold all the ewes in the chute. Without a squeeze this time it was the only way to control them. It worked fairly well all things considered.

Threading the pipette into the ewe.

Insemination is simple.

We discovered that a maximum of 2 straws can be used or there is too big a volume of semen plus extender.

The live cover ewes are being bred by the ram Kai. We won't put a ram in with the AI group for 5 weeks.

02 December 2009

Sheep AI Experiment 2009 Part 3 - More Ram Collections

With the USDA folks back we collected semen again. This time it will be a slightly different freezing protocol.
Here are the rams in the sweep ready to go. They are not happy, they know what's coming.

One ram Desert Weyr Kai got to go in with the ewes. He is in a bit early so we can see if our ewes come into heat sooner than the average.

29 November 2009

Solar Update

Well it's been almost a year since we installed the solar hot water system to provide both domestic hot water and supplemental heat for our radiant floor system.

Several things we learned early on that have not changed over time.

We need to plan on doing most laundry and major hot water use in the afternoon on a sunny day to avoid using the propane heater.

The high angle of the panels means that we did not need to make any covers for them during the summer. We may still need to make a cover for one panel for the times around the fall equinox when we are not using much heat in the house yet but the sun is lower so the panels are getting more energy.

We had a couple of instances where we got some sort of bubble in the system and the panel temperatures soared and the pumps would not turn on to circulate the fluid. We've purged the system again and hope we have solved that problem.

Overall we reduced our propane usage by about half over the whole year. We may do a bit better now that we know more about how to handle the system.

The payback period for the system is still very long. Total installed cost was approximately $17,500.00. We saved approximately $1,600.00 in propane this first year making the payback almost 11 years. That could change if the price of propane goes up but also has changed a bit as the price went down from last year to this.

I still think in the long run it is a good idea.

19 November 2009

Sheep AI Experiment 2009 Part 2 - Sync the Ewes

Next on the sheep AI project is getting the ewes heat cycles synchronized.

We put CIDRs in all the ewes today. First group will be the AI girls. The second batch is a control group that will be bred via a live cover ram to test the sync procedure.

Here is Beatrix, Ken and Caren after the procedure with the rest of the live cover ewes looking on.

10 November 2009

Ewe Sorting and Some Lamb Vaccinations

We got one batch of the ewes sorted out. This group will go to the live cover ram as a control for the AI procedure. They are all now sorted into the breeding pen and have had their fall dewormer to kill the nose bots. The potential AI girls are now in the other pen closest to the sweep. I still need to sort out 2 of them as possible butcher sheep.

We also got the ram lambs dewormed and the late lambs got their second shots. Still have to do the ewe lambs as well as deworm adult rams and the AI girls.

We've got a batch of potential butcher ewes selected as well. Ten will be going to slaughter next week so no wormer for them.

04 November 2009

Sheep AI Experiment 2009 Part 1

Today was doing part one of the 2009 sheep AI experiment with USDA-NAGP people.

Today we collected semen from 14 adult Black Welsh Mountain rams.

Each ram has his picture taken in front of a size marked tarp for future reference.

No pictures of semen collection. It takes all of us to hold the ram so no one spare to take any pictures.

Afterwards we collect blood samples for B. ovis testing and additional samples if required for genetic testing and DNA sequencing.

The semen is evaluated, processed and frozen in liquid nitrogen in the temporary lab we set up inside our workshop.

We will collect all the rams again tomorrow.

03 November 2009

Feeding Sheep

Sheep are in the winter pens now. Here are the ewes eating hay and later a nearly empty feeder.

We are going through more hay than normal, but we also have more sheep than normal.

A good selection of ewes, ewe lambs and ram lambs for sale if you want your own flock of little black sheep.

28 October 2009

Morning Snow

Early morning on Garvin Mesa.

14 October 2009

Fall in the North Fork

Mt. Lamborn has a skiff of snow on it.

View down the North Fork valley. Fall colors are really nice this year.

08 October 2009

Mt. Gunnison Snow

Lovely fall day with snow on Mt. Gunnison. Winter is coming.

05 October 2009

Eating the Melon!

We decided to see if the melon I harvested was any good to eat.

It was wonderful, so we ate the entire melon.

Very sweet and tasty! I've saved the seeds because it's an open pollinated variety.

30 September 2009

Last of the Garden

With a frost expected it was time to harvest the last of the garden stuff. My only other 2 crops were melons. One a watermelon and one a cantaloup type.

The only one that got very big was the cantaloup. It's not ripe yet but I harvested it anyway. Better gardeners than I have said that this year was especially tough for heat loving plants due to our cold wet spring. So the lack of fruits may not entirely be due to my black thumb. I guess I'll try again next year, maybe.

28 September 2009

Last of the Hay for the Year

Judd got the last of the hay baled and delivered today.

We buy hay from the neighbors and this second cutting looks especially good.

There was more than we expected. We won't need any additional hay for the year and are well set for winter. Next job is to send a sample off for nutritional analysis testing and then fine tune the sheep mineral.

27 September 2009

Paonia Mountain Harvest Festival

Sunday AM down to the Town Park for the Mountain Harvest Festival Farmers' Market.
Ray came to help at the booth and took care of it so I could take a break occasionally.

Monica from Small Potatoes Farm selling potatoes and garlic braids.

A good day, lots of sales of meat, socks and even some yarn.

26 September 2009

Farm Tours & Sheep Coats

No Pictures. This morning before the big main farm tours started as part of the Paonia Harvest Festival we sorted out some of the sheep and put coats on. They are now in the winter corrals on hay. They look a bit silly in their coats but it keeps the wool clean.

Promptly at 11:00 the tour folks started arriving and I was doing solid tours from 11 until 5:30 pm. No pictures unfortunately. It was a good day, something like 75 people came to the farm and learned about how their meat and wool is produced.

18 September 2009

Weaning Time

Today we sorted out all the ram lambs from their mothers. We have several who are already sniffing the ewes. I just hope they weren't fertile yet! We also weighed all the lambs. Most are looking really good. A few are not as big as I would hope for but they are also young. Lots of baaing tonight I am sure. No pictures. We were too busy to stop to take any.

Evening Light

Sun after the storm.

17 September 2009

The Laying Hens

Here are the new laying hens.

A Silver Grey Dorking.

A Welsummer.

15 September 2009

Culinary School of Rockies Dinner at Zephros

We were invited to the Culinary School of the Rockies dinner at Zephros Farm.

Here the students are busily working on the feast.

I got several shots of the students, both with and without the chef instructors. This was just before the rain.

We had a brief downpour and all the plates got wet. So several students quickly dried everything off.

It was nice after the rain and we had a good time.

In back Monica and Sue and in front, Gretchen, Mike and Riley.

Ken being silly!

09 September 2009

Selling Sheep & Thirsty Lamb

We've started our fall sheep sales. This batch of lovely yearlings is heading off to MO to a new flock there. They are also getting two adult rams. Meanwhile another small flock of three ewe lambs and a ram lamb will also go to another new flock but they aren't sorted out yet.


This ram lamb has decided that a fresh flowing water fountain is better than drinking from the ditch. It's the same water. I guess he just likes it running.