Cows, Not Sheep

In a previous life I raised cows. When I married Dan he was a partner in a family-owned dairy. My daughter recently asked for photos of Grandma and Grandpa, preferably with cows, so that my 2-1/2 year old granddaughter would have an association with something memorable she looks at pictures of her extended family.


The dairy we worked on was sold several years ago and the cows were moved to Orland. That dairy was sold recently and the milk cows are all gone. There is some young stock left at the home place. These are Milking Shorthorns.


I have always loved this tankhouse. This one has been recently rennovated.


A young bull.






Stuart kept a couple of steers to be trained as oxen. This photo doesn’t show their size because they are standing lower than Stuart. They are huge as were the steers that I had when we first moved here.


Fleece From Start to Finish-Lauren

This is Lauren.


Before …

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…and after shearing last February.

I came across her washed and partially carded fleece yesterday and decided to finish it before this next shearing. The funny thing is that I have looked several times for this sheep as I was taking photos of all the sheep for my annual Flock List for Farm Club. I couldn’t ever get a photo of her but I could have sworn that she was on my breeding list. Looking back through my blog posts to see if I had written about keeping her fleece I found this post in which I said that I hadn’t planned to but I traded her for a sheep when I was at BSG in Oregon. No wonder I couldn’t find her! I also see that I never wrote the story of Fleece from Start to Finish about Honey’s fleece. That will be another post.


This is Lauren’s fleece spread out on the skirting table.


This is what the underneath side looks like. It looks browner in the first photo because the tips are sunbleached.


Here is what the staples look like.

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Here it is after sorting into colors before…


…and after washing.


That was all done in the spring and I had started to card it. Today I finished the carding job (I thought). I had a lot of black wool and a few batts of white and gray. img_6066

I spread out the white and gray batts as evenly as I could so that some of each would go with each the black batt.


Then I carded a third time keeping the white somewhat separate from the black.


The pile on the right is 3 of the finished batts stacked up. I kept all the other batts rolled up in the sleeves that come with the Clemes & Clemes batt lifter. That’s 11 batts next to a pile of three! It totals about 1 pound 5 ounces.

I felt very productive now that I was ready to spin all that wool. But look at what I found shortly after:


I thought that the proportion of black to white wasn’t right. This is the rest of Lauren’s fleece that I hadn’t picked yet.

There will be another report later, hopefully when I finish spinning this BEFORE the next shearing day on February 5.

Winter Rain and Some Random Farm Photos

Rusty wrote in his blog a couple days ago about his own private lake in front of the barn. Once it stopped raining, the water in this area drained off quickly. img_6008

The next evening things were back to normal near the barn.


This isn’t so normal. Why in the world is this rose choosing to bloom now, in January?)


This scene is normal behind the barn in a winter when we have rain. The sheep avoid the deep mud when given a chance. Another storm was due to come in.


And it was a doozy. I haven’t seen water like this here in several years.


This is the area where the dogs were standing in the first photo. Fortunately the barn and those smaller buildings stay just out of the water.


For anyone who has seen what this is normally like these photos are dramatic, but we really can’t complain. The shop (behind the tractor) and the houses (out of sight here) are built up off the ground so we don’t worry about water inside them. We have never had to worry about the serious flooding that other people have. It is especially amazing to realize that this is not water from a creek overflowing or a levee breaking. It is just a lot of rain over  a period of days on flat land that is already water-logged. Some of this water comes from the property to the north because the only drainage is at the southeast corner of our property (see this post).


One problem we have is that our cellar floods when the ground water is high and that’s where our water heater is.  We keep a pump going but during yesterday’s storm I decided that I really need to reroute the water somwhere other than this field because it’s too close to the houses and seeping back in, as well as causing trouble with the septic system for the other house. So I wired this PVC pipe to the fence at an angle and put the hose from the pump in the upper end.


Now that water drains into the ditch which is taking water away from the houses. It’s really just a drop in the bucket (uh…no pun intended) but it makes me feel like I did something pro-active in the face of all this rain.The pump hasn’t turned off in at least 36 hours as it continues to try and drain the cellar.

Today the sun was out, the driveway and the area that looks like a lake in the upper photos have mostly drained. I taught a weaving class today…


…and when I’m in the shop the dogs take turns at the spot by the door.


This is from tonight while doing chores. I cleaned the ram shed and while I was in their pen Ginny tried to get my attention. She succeeded. Drop the ball in the water through the fence and chances are I’ll get it out for her.





Farm Club in the City Again

I have to look back at my blog posts to know how long it is that Farm Club members have been going to San Francisco for an annual one-night retreat. It seems that the first one was in 2011 so this is the seventh. As always we had a fabulous time.

Eight of us met at the NDGW home Friday afternoon (see this post for some views of this fabulous home) and then went to FC member Stephany’s  home in the Glen Park District of San Francisco.


Stephany and Ian invited us to see the recent addition to their yard, half of which has been inaccessible since they have lived there except for going half way around the block and through the property behind them.


This spiral staircase, which was lifted OVER their house by a crane a couple of months ago, gives them access to the upper level.



From the top of the staircase you cross this bridge to get to solid ground.


There is a spectacular view of the city and the bay and Stephany and Ian have a wonderful garden spot with a sunny exposure that is often above the fog line.


After enjoying afternoon snacks with Stephany she led us on an urban hike. The first point of interest was this tiny garden.


Only two blocks from Stephany’s home we saw the 78-acre Glen Canyon Park.


I had no idea that something like this exists in the middle of San Francisco.




Note the rock climbers on the smooth face of that rock.


This is us on the other side of that same rock.



We walked a loop trail and returned to Stephany’s for more scones and brownies. We had dinner at Green Chili Kitchen, only a block from the NDGW Home…


…and spent the rest of the evening knitting and spinning in the parlor.


Janis showed off her snazzy handspun/handknit socks modeled after the sheep-motif Baable Hat.


Three of us are knitting the Fleece Flight KAL.  Mary is working on the third triangle. Stephany’s is in blue and mine is the small one in Jacob wool.

Our plan for Saturday was to have No Plan.


Well, there was one plan. Every year we have lemon pie for breakfast. We have bought pies across the street but this year Janis offered to bake them. I think this is now our regular routine. Lemon meringue, blackberry, and apple. Way to go, Janis!!


The serving line. We each had a piece of all three pies. Of course.


And while not eating pie we chatted and worked on projects. Amy almost finished a sock…


…and I made progress on my Fleece Flight shawl.

What an inspiring, fun 24 hours. We may expand this to a whole weekend next year.

Digging Ditches (& on my pasture soapbox)and a new fun discovery

We’re finally getting rain like in the old days…that is, before the several drought years. One thing that is different in the last few years is that the news media now has days of coverage Before The Storm. It’s good to have warning of hurricanes, floods, etc, but sometimes I think that there is a little overkill on the Before reporting. There must be other news…oh wait, I guess if it is the political climate instead of the atmospheric climate  maybe I’d rather hear about the weather after all.

I was gone Friday night (that’s for another blog post). Heavy rain had been predicted  rain through the whole weekend. The scene below is not abnormal for a regular (non-drought) winter here. We don’t handle winter well at our facility.fullsizerenderThe first thing you’ll notice in this photo is the pink line. That’s my new discovery–that I can draw on my photos!!! Yippee! More fun with photos! I’ll try not to overdo it once I’m done with this post. The pink outlines the waterlogged wet area behind the barn, around the Mt. Meridian (the compost/manure pile). The arrow indicates how that water eventually has to drain IF it can flow away. Or it eventually evaporates or soaks into the ground. That is a slow process with our clay soil that is already waterlogged.


This photo is taken from the same location as the last but at the fence that borders the ditch (irrigation in the summer, run-off in the winter). It’s hard for me to tell if the water level around the manure pile is lower or higher than the level in the ditch right now. At times when I’m irrigating the irrigation water flows backward into the barn area because it flows through gopher or ground squirrel holes. I don’t want to dig a ditch if it’s going to drain the ditch water back towards the barn area. So I started digging. The water was flowing the right direction.img_5959

Here is where I cut through to the ditch. You can see the water flowing into the ditch although the levels aren’t that much different.


The water has to flow east in the ditch and then south. It leaves the property near that tree by going under the driveway to the south and into the canal.


Even in the summer I have a hard time getting the ditch to drain quickly. I walked to the ditch going south. You can see where the water has to go. There is much less water here than in the east-west ditch. This one is much smaller and full of grass. I started digging out dallisgrass clumps. I walked the whole ditch back and forth looking for the next problem spot–where the grass seemed to be hindering the water flow. I didn’t by any means dig the whole thing bigger and deeper but I think I made some difference in the flow.


This is taken when standing in the corner near that tree and looking west. The arrow indicates the tail-water ditch where water flows after irrigating. The pastures are saturated and some water is flowing there now, but notice the overgrown dallisgrass.

While I’m almost on my dallisgrass soapbox I’ll point out the green parts of these last two photos. This is a Mediterranean climate and that means that we have winter rains and dry summers. When it rains in the fall the grass and forbs start to grow. This growth is dependent on temperature and light. When it warms up in the spring the grass takes off and grows like crazy. By May or June things dry out and grass sets seed and it dries out. So…in the spring I count on that annual growth for feeding sheep. I count on the clovers and trefoil (which I have because I irrigate) to sustain us through the summer. Dallisgrass is a perennial grass that grows in the summer and eventually gets out of control and too coarse and fast growing for the sheep to keep up with. The last few years I have mowed after grazing to keep it manageable. These photos show why that is important. The green parts in the photo above shows green growth in the paddocks I mowed. Where it is brown is the overgrown dallisgrass where hardly anything grows. Same with the photo  below. The roadsides are covered with green grass and forbs but the overgrown dallisgrass that wasn’t eaten or mowed blocks everything. That means less feed.

Back to the issue at hand, which is water and ditches.fullsizerender-7

This photo shows where the water leaves the property, flowing under the driveway to the south and into the canal.


After doing what I could in that ditch I walked back to where I had started digging near the barn. Water was still flowing.


So I went into Faulkner’s pen and started digging north towards the manure pile and barn. Here is a closeup of some of my ditch from the other direction. The fence is at the top of this photo. You can see how the water is flowing UNDER the surface through rodent hoels.


My ditch isn’t nearly big enough to drain everything, but it’s better than nothing. At least it feels like progress.

There will be another blog post later about my fantastic Friday/Saturday AWAY from the farm. Maybe fewer marked up photos too. Right now I am going to Higby’s to get new rubber boots because mine are too old and water is seeping through at the ankles.

The Flock

Every year I put together a Flock List for the Farm Club members. This includes photos and a little information about each sheep (and dog and other characters) on the farm. I like to get current photos of each sheep and I’ll share a few here. Shearing Day is in just a month so they are in almost full fleece. I’ll have to get before and after shots of them as well. 11047-zoey-3













Two almost 2-year-olds, Honey and Zinnia.


Marilla, a 2016 lamb, and her mother, Marilyn.


This photo was taking during the summer of two of the sheep I bought from flocks in Oregon. That is Kenleigh’s Sheena on the left and Shadow Mountain Shelby on the right. I found this photo while I was looking for another. It is a good example showing a lilac ewe (right) and a black and white ewe.


Most sheep eyes.


Some of the lilac sheep have striking blue eyes