Friday, April 18, 2014

How to make felted Easter eggs

Felting is a fantastic introduction to fiber arts. Anyone can learn to felt in just a little while. Although it takes longer to become an expert, beginners do well.  These  beautiful decorations can be made by all ages and skill levels. An adult should work with young children as the needles are very sharp.

3" styrofoam egg or ball
1/2 ounce carded wool batt or roving, various colors
felting needles
nylon stocking
hot water, clear dish soap

1) Separate carded bat or roving into thin, narrow pieces
2) USing a felting needle, secure thin strips of wool to the egg, adding different colors of wool to make your design. Push the needle repeatedly straight into the egg, through the wool.
3) Carefully insert the wool covered egg into a nylon stocking. Tie off the end of the stocking next to the egg.
4) Add a squirt of dish detergent to a small bowl of very hot water. Submerge the egg. Roll the wet egg in your hands, between your palms, to felt the wool. This should take three to four minutes.
5) Dry in a bowl with a hand held hair dryer.
6) You may add further designs at this point with your felting needle.
7) To hang your egg, use sewing thread and a doll makers needle to pull the thread through the egg. Tie a pony bead at the bottom of the egg and make a hamging loop from thread at the top.

The important thing to remember about felting an egg is that wool can move as you felt it. The end product may not be at all what you expect until you become an expert felter. But no matter what happens, you will have a beautiful egg, guaranteed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to photograph a baby on a lambskin rug

It takes planning and luck to get a traditional photograph of a baby on a lambskin rug. If you follow the directions below, you can’t possibly get a worse photograph than I did.

  1. First, planning. You have to take the photo at the right age. The baby must be old enough to hold his chest and head up, but not yet crawling. (This baby crawled so fast that he made it off the rug in seconds. In this photo he also demonstrates the problems involved with a baby who can’t hold his head up, although you don’t usually have to deal with both problems at the same time.) 
  2. Clear away everything distracting in the background unless you want your friends and family to focus on your messy house rather than your beautiful baby. (And let’s face it, all of us have messy houses when we have young children).
  3. Work with a partner. One person works with the camera and the second person works with the baby.
  4. Work in good light, but plan on stopping action with your flash.
  5. Get down on the baby’s level so that her sparkling eyes and laughing smile are the most important part of the photograph. (This photo has been closely cropped because the baby’s bare bottom turned out to be the most obvious part.)
  6. Once the baby is in place, work fast. Position and expression are subject to change without notice.
  7. If you don’t get a good photo, try again tomorrow. Don’t wait a week, chances are he’ll be crawling and/or walking by then.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Feeding the sheep

We fill four buckets of corn to feed the sheep. 1, 2, 3, 4.

It takes two people to carry the buckets.

We don't usually spill the corn on the ground, usually it goes in the feeders.

Then we throw eight bales of hay out of the barn. Once the sheep are fed we can go in the house and feed ourselves a snack..

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sheep albedo

Dr. Ewe Noh-Watt of the New Zealand Institute of Veterinary Climatology has discovered that global warming is caused not by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather by the decline of New Zealand's sheep population. The reasoning is that sheep are white, and therefore large numbers of sheep increase the planet's albedo (the amount of sunlight reflected back into space). As the sheep population declined, the ground has been absorbing more solar radiation, thus warming the planet. Dr Noh-Watt explains "It can be seen that the recent warming can be explained entirely by the decline in the New Zealand sheep population, without any need to bring in any mysterious so-called 'radiative forcing' from carbon dioxide, which doesn't affect the sunlight (hardly) anyway — unlike Sheep Albedo."

Noh-Watt also warmed of a potentially destabilizing feedback mechanism: "As climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a 'runaway sheep-albedo feedback,' which is believed to have led to the present torrid climate of Venus."

However, skeptics disputed the Sheep Albedo Hypothesis. Steve Ramsturf, spokesman for the New Zealand Sheep Farmers Guild, was quoted as saying, "Baaah, Humbug. No matter what goes wrong with the world, they're always trying to blame the poor New Zealand Sheep Farmer."

Monday, March 31, 2014


Peace met me at the door of the barn both figuratively and literally. The ewes were sleeping with their babies. The chickens were muttering in their coop. The bottle lambs slept piled on top of each other in the warm glow of a heat lamp. 

When I shut the door, the bottle lambs woke. Peace, number 7 yellow, an older ewe walked right up to me. She stayed beside me as I fed the two most insistent lambs. She followed me as I walked through the sleeping flock, looking for new babies. 

Peace was an experienced mother. She obviously needed me for something. I crowded her into a corner, knelt beside her, grabbed the two feet on the far side of her body, and pulled her over onto her side.  I had to force my fingers into her vagina; the cervical opening was barely dilated. When I withdrew my hand, a sack of golden amniotic fluid followed. So she was ready to lamb, but her cervix hadn’t opened. I knew that I could solve that problem, but it would be easier if Dave was holding Peace down. 

He was just waking when I returned to the house and was easily persuaded to come out to the barn. Peace waited for us just inside the barn door.  Dave pulled her down and then lay on top of her. I washed and lubricated my hand and, fingertips together, I slid it into her vagina again. This time I pushed until my hand was through the cervical opening. Clouds of amnion wrapped themselves around my fingers as I searched blindly for a lamb. 

There!  Two feet, facing up instead of down. These were hind feet. No wonder her cervix wasn’t dilating well. There was no head or shoulders to force it open. I gathered the two hooves between my fingers and began to pull steadily. There are several  problems with breach presentations beyond that of narrow cervical openings. One is the danger that the lamb could take a breath before we get it out into the open air as its chest moves through the birth canal. The second is that we might not be able to get the chest beyond the cervical opening. The head and shoulders act like a wedge in a normal birth. In a breach birth, the rib cage just runs into the cervix with no wedge to go before. 

This lamb was slender enough to pass through the cervix once I began exerting pull on his legs. Chest followed hind legs, shoulders and head followed chest and the front legs came last. I swung the lamb into place in front of Peace and began scrubbing the amnion and amniotic fluid from its face. Dave grabbed a towel and also began rubbing.

By the time Peace’s first lamb had her head up and was beginning to struggle to her feet, Peace was in hard labor with her second lamb. This one delivered with no help from me. When the lamb slithered to the barn floor, I swiped the amnion off her face and passed her up to her mother’s nose. Peace began licking and the lamb began breathing all on her own.

When Peace and her babies left their jug two days later, she was completely uninterested in me. Her entire attention was focused on keeping her lambs in sight. She will probably never approach me again, but the fact that she did, that she knew I would help, changed me. Now I know that I have a relationship, more than just the bringer of hay with the sheep. The knowledge brings  me a kind of peace.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Super goat

Most of the time we have an ambiguous relationship with our goats. They are faster than a speeding human, more implacable than a locomotive, and able to leap tall fences in a single bound. Fortunately, as far as we know, they don’t fly.

They are however, super moms. They kid on their own, rarely needing help. Their babies, slide out of the uterus and immediately start breathing. We don’t need to rub them or encourage them or swing them around our heads to get them to take those first breaths. They are up on their feet, searching for nipples even faster than the lambs are and nurse well. The does also nurse their babies well.  We bought the only bottle kids we’ve ever had as bottle kids. The does don’t seem to get mastitis, perhaps because our goats usually have a single kid, rarely two, and never three or four.

The goats also seem to live forever, or perhaps it just feels that way when they’ve successfully leaped a fence as  we’re trying to corral them in the barn. When you have an animal with super powers, but the collaborative instincts of a wild animal, even a short life can feel too long at times.

Our goats are beautiful animals. Clean lines, striking faces, gorgeous colored hair. I wish I could get that marvelous brown in a nice crimpy sheep fleece. Unfortunately sheep and goats don’t interbreed. Actually, it’s fortunate.  We don’t need any more super animals in the flock.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

When spring comes

The first day of spring came and went. The morning dawned warm and misty with ice crystals coating grasses and bushes. We saw our first finches at the feeders, their heads stained with rose. Sap dripped from the maple trees and we collected 10 gallons.

The first day of spring came and went, as did spring. By Friday, the temperature had dropped to 9°, and the wind roared through the woods at more than 24 miles per hour. Only ice filled the cans. Today, with temperatures and winds just as fierce, we closed up the barn to keep the sheep warmer and closed the sugar bush to keep our intrepid sugar bush friends warmer too.

We’ll reopen the bush and the barn when spring returns.