Friday, May 27, 2011

The Chicken Edition

I started a different blog today and had to put it in my 'save' pile for later this weekend. I will get to it, its about a project I completed this week. It has been a busy week as I helped out at my girlfriend, Julie Wier's farm shearing her 121 llamas and alpacas. Yeah! She has a big farm and now lots of wool. But as I went out to the barn today to feed, I heard the 'peep-peep' that I recognize. Every year I say I don't want any more chickens. I have kept the eggs away from my little hens so far, or so I thought! You see, these little bandy Araucana hens are the setting-est chickens I have ever seen. If more than 3 eggs are in a hen box, she will squat on those eggs and won't get up. There are good companion chickens to have when raising 18th century heritage chickens like we do. To keep the breeds of the LeFletch and Creve Coureur going, they have been inbred enough that they have lost their setting instincts. So the little Araucana hens will hatch out their eggs. They really don't care whose eggs they are as long as they are eggs.

For example, take the hen to the left. I affectionately call her 'Birdzilla'. There is no more fierce mother hen on the planet! Notice how 'puffy' she is. When I took this picture, she puffed out and started growling at me, telling me I was getting too close. She doesn't realize that I was the one that put 5 heritage eggs in her nest. I wanted her to set. She is pretty comical every day. She is in the corner of the girls side of the barn being protected by them against predators. Normally, a hen wouldn't survive setting 3 weeks on eggs on the ground but the alpaca girls like her.

Anyway, I digress......
I was walking to the barn, heard the peeping, came around the corner of the barn and found 4 chicks by the outside wall. I obviously missed a setting hen! I scooped up 3 black chicks (heritage chicks) and went in the barn following the sound of the mom clucking. There she was on a nest under a hay feeder.
I popped those babies back under her, under a slight protest from her, and went back outside to get the other one. He must have gotten separated earlier and was laying there with his little eyes shut. I picked him up and he was cold. You have to understand how it is around my farm, I never want baby chicks until I find them and then they are MINE. I carried around Little John (yes, I already named him) cupped in my hand for about 20 minutes trying to get him warmed up. He was still breathing. I walked around checking fence, water tanks, the mulberry tree (a soon to be blog) and then I heard a little 'peep' from him! So then I took him back into the barn and got him under his mom.
So here he is! I stayed in the barn for quite a while checking on him. After about an hour, the mom came out and got some cracked corn and water. I must be psychic because yesterday when I was at the farm store, I spotted these green feeders and bought one saying to myself that it was just good property to have. And this morning, here I am using it! (Twilight Zone music playing in background) 

Well, time will tell if Little John will make it. Actually, if he makes it through the night he will be good to go. He is a bit small and weak, but overnight he might catch up. I hope so, I'll keep you posted about him.
Nature has her way of handling such things. The black chicks are the heritage chicks and the little brown and grey mottled and striped ones are Araucana chicks. I'm not sure yet how many she has.

My favorite hen is 'Henny Penny' and is the little grey hen on the right. She is older than dirt, has a toe disorder and is spoiled rotten. In the winter, I have hand fed and watered her every day. The black rooster below is 'Woodstock' or Woody as he is called around here. He is a teddy bear of a rooster.

I hand raised Woody. He live the first couple of months in the house with us. He has been in several films, yes, he is quite the star. He used to ride around on my shoulder at Rendezvous. Ok, I admit it! I do love my chickens. Can't help it.

And my chickens also love alpaca fiber. They prefer to nest in it than hay!

I saved my favorite picture of the day for last. Little John with his mom and sibling. Talk to you soon,  Tammy

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blackberry Winter

That's what the old farmers call what we have been experiencing this week in weather. "Blackberry Winter".
 Before it, we have a couple of weeks of warmer than normal temperatures. Like for the Waterloo Sheep Festival on April 9, it was 91 degrees! Now for the past week it has been cold. And it seems even colder because of the previous warm weather. I've gotten out my mitts again! Its been getting down to around 42 at night with a high of 50 during the day. And during this cold snap the wild blackberries bloom. You can see their clusters of white flowers along the fields and roadsides. This Blackberry Winter usually means a good wild blackberry crop. That will make my husband very happy. (and we like happy hubbies)

I have gotten my Susie's Reading Mitts done. I am very pleased with how the pattern turned out. The yarn was gifted to me by my friend, Bonnie Ahrens. It is a 50/50 angora/merino blend and is wonderful to wear. I got the pattern out of the Ravelry library. I've been forcing my hubby to drive places so that I have some extra knitting time. And because of it, I have them done. Getting little projects done makes me feel better about myself. I like to make things. And to anyone at the wedding last week, Jason and Megan's, these were what I was working on!

Knit happy!    Talk to you soon,  Tammy

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shearing 2011

So it was Fiber Christmas at Illini Alpacas this week! 
This is a picture of Leo getting his wool coat taken off. Look at those spots!

He also did very well on the shearing table with it being his first time sheared. We had shearers come in to do the actual shearing. It is something I wouldn't attempt alone and the shearer had a handy
table that really saved our backs! We had the help of our son, Nate, and a friend of ours from a neighboring farm, Alice Biffar. (Thanks to both of you, you were so much help!) To the right is Lonestar getting his first shearing. I am amazed at how his fiber glistens in the light. And the staple length! I watch each one with awe. The only spitter was little Vienna and she spit on the table and it was on her favorite boy, Nate. He loves her so much he didn't even mind!
The boys sheared without incident, thankfully, and we were doing a bang-up job with the girls until we hit
a snaggle.
Enter Vidalia!
Or Not! lol
She cushed in the barn and would not get up. So Bruce grabbed her backend and raised it up and pushed trying to coax her up. She wasn't falling for that! She planted those front legs on the ground and they ended up like this to the right. It was hysterical! I had to get a picture of it!
As you can see, the shearers were kinda disgusted about it and at a loss at what to do. During this time, me and Nate were too busy laughing to be of much help. She eventually got up and on the table and we resumed shearing. 
She gave us what we needed: a nice laugh to break up the day. We sheared all 26 animals in just under 7 hours. It was a full day. And a day where I got a couple of surprises. Good ones, too.
This is Diesel. I had no idea he was spotted like this! His fleece is amazing, too! Ahh, The Mighty, Mighty, Diesel! He can justifiably strut around the pasture now in all his glory spots. I am very impressed with this little guy. I would go as far as to say he is show worthy. It was a great day but an exhausting one. And Fiber Christmas does only come once a year. Darn.                                                                Talk to you soon,  Tammy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Deal of the Century!

This is  a picture of Jadzia. She is a cute little alpaca that is very mild mannered and quiet tempered. She gets along well with the other girls and even lets last year's crias eat pellets out of her dish with her. Even when pregnant. Yes, I was very confident selling Jadzia to anyone, including someone new to alpacas. She has birthed with no problems, too. Very confident I was. I had her on the website for $2500 on a special, and special is right because she was due to have her cria at any time. It was quite a deal! It was

The Deal of the Century!!

And I say that because she had her cria on Sunday. The Deal Is---GONE!

Look at the cria she had! This little guy does not come along every day. And now Jadzia has proven she can throw some amazing patterns. She is a little, quiet pot of gold! I am so excited about this guy. He sports the colors black, white, silver grey, coffee brown, medium brown and medium fawn. He is like an alpaca rainbow. And up and running in a couple of hours after his birth. Haven't decided for sure on a name yet. My son wants to name him Set, after an Egyptian god, but to me it sounds like a verb. 
 Yes, he is a very handsome boy. He might be a keeper, I'm not sure yet. I want to to keep him anyway but I can't keep them all. That is the fun of breeding--not knowing what is in there until he comes into this world. And what a pleasant surprise!

Talk to you soon,  Tammy

Monday, May 9, 2011

Clandestine Bouquet

I hope you had a nice Mother's Day yesterday! I did. These are the flowers my husband gave to me for the occasion, plus dinner out. He 'borrowed' them from a couple of houses that just had more flowers than they knew what to do with. Of course, he did it in the dark of night. In my mind's eye, I can just see him scurrying around! It makes me smile. It is always so wonderful to get flowers of any kind. Whether they are expensive ones from a florist or the kind borrowed in the cloak of night. Whatever the age of the man though, old or young, it is such a romantic sight to see your man standing in the doorway holding a bouquet of flowers that he picked himself with you in mind.  Thank you, honey!

Talk to you soon,


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blue Birds Are Back


Each year we are fortunate that bluebirds take up residence in our back yard. I say fortunate because--well, look at them! They are so beautiful! And their box is outside my kitchen window so I get to have my coffee each morning while watching them. As you can see, their set-up isn't the most attractive but it is functional. The metal pole the birdhouse sets on doesn't let Buckette, the black snake, get up there. The rabbit wire under the feed dish keeps the cats from jumping them when they aren't looking. The rock in the feed dish keeps it from being too wobbly. This set up works at our house and for years now we have bluebirds successfully hatch out each spring. I buy several thousand meal worms and keep them in my fridge to feed them every morning. I noticed this morning that
both the male and female were taking worms into the house so that means the eggs have hatched out! I'll step up the amount of worms I give them tomorrow. They are devoted parents. And are devoted to each other. The male will feel the female. He feeds her when she is setting on the nest. They get quite tame, too. When I go out in the morning to feed them, I call, 'bluebird, bluebird', put the worms in the tray and barely get two steps away when they come flying down to get the worms. This is definitely one of the cool things about living in the country. I like it out here. Even with all the water. 

Talk to you soon, 


Monday, May 2, 2011

"The Raid On Rocher"

The Civil War visited Prairie du Rocher this weekend as the town re-enacted the most likely only documented skirmish in Illinois during the Civil War. "The Raid On Rocher", as it is being called, happened on April 6, 1864. Some Confederates from Missouri were in town that day and a Union Militia Cavalry unit came across the ferry into Illinois to capture them. They chased them around town and up the bluff. At the end of the skirmish two Confederates were killed and two captured and one Union soldier was wounded. But it didn't end there. The Union troops tore up the town, raiding the local store and stealing horses and guns from several houses in town. For the re-enactment we had the 10th Missouri Cavalry Unit leading the way. They brought 8 horses with them. It was an awesome sight! Many local townspeople took part.

We had soldiers and militia of every age shooting their guns and having a great time!

The central spot for gathering between skirmishes was the Creole House. Visitors enjoyed coming up on the porch and talking with the soldiers and the 'ladies'.

Below is a picture of Laurie Becker, the caretaker of the Creole House. I had her pose for this shot. Thanks for indulging me, Laurie!

Below is a picture of when the Union Militia caught one of the Confederate soldiers that was hiding in the bluffs. He put up quite a fight, but he was outnumbered.

Come join us next year when the town will be doing the re-enactment again! Talk to you soon,  Tammy