Homemade hay feeders

I’m not really sure what most people use Pinterest for, but I discovered that it’s a pretty good source of ideas for farm projects. Just Google whatever it is I need to find, and chances are good that several of the top 10 results are Pinterest pins.
So I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when searching for sheep hay feeders and that happened.
I had a few needs for the hay feeders I wanted – they had to be shorter than my sheep (all of whom are around 24″ at the shoulders) to keep hay from settling in the neck and back wool. Sheep are amazingly messy eaters and will get hay all over themselves and their neighbors. As a spinner, the cleaner I can keep the wool, the less work I have to do to prepare it for spinning, after it’s been sheared. The feeders also needed to be portable. Bonus if I didn’t have to buy anything (or very little – it’s a solid rule of building that you *must* make at least one trip to the hardware/home store for something).
To the googles, and then to the pins! I found two that seemed to fit the bill, saved the pictures to my phone, and off to the barn and workshop for the carnage construction portion of the show.
It definitely took more time to assemble the parts than it did to make 4 feeders – 2 blue barrels, some 4x4s for the legs, some 1x6s for the support frame, a whole lotta deck screws, a few siding screws to screw the barrel to the wood, and the tools appropriate for the assembly. And as most projects, the first one took twice as long to make as the rest as I figured out the bits I couldn’t see from the Pinterest pictures.
Like any recipe, I modified to fit the materials I had, and the end product I had in mind.
And here it is:
They have been in use since fall 2017 and are holding up nicely, even when one of the sheep decide that there isn’t enough space to stand on the ground and decides that standing *on* the bale is a better decision.
I drilled a few drainage holes just in case, but since these are all under cover, they haven’t been necessary. Unfortunately, they don’t quite hold a full bale each, but I split a bale between 2 feeders and it works fine. Just need to take hay out to them more often, or I can pack 3 bales in the 4 feeders.
And the only thing I needed to buy was more deck screws. I’ll call that a win 😃

Lamb watch 2017

Ruby and Lily

Gestation in sheep is between 142-152 days, with the average being 147 days. Pretty boy Sven was introduced to his lady friends Lily and Ruby on 27 September 2016, which would make this coming Saturday the earliest they could lamb. Assuming a whole lot of things, that is!

In expectation of the blessed events, I set up a “maternity pen” for the two ladies next to their current pasture area. This is for everyone’s safety, especially the lambs, because our two livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) have not experienced lambing before. With the excitement of lambing, I want the LGDs to have a good experience and learn that the lambs belong to the mama sheep, not to them. Hence the separate, but right-next-door pen. Everyone can see and smell, but not interfere.

Now there is a non-zero chance that one or both of them aren’t even pregnant. Both ewes have lambed before, and Sven is a daddy, so that’s something in my favor. I’m quite pleased to not have to go through “first lambing” with them!

So now we wait, I hope not too long, but as with all things farm-y, it is what it is.


More sheep needed

This has been a challenging year, animal-wise. The weather was cool and wet, then hot and dry, then wet again, which puts stress on the grass and the animals. Unfortunately, we’ve lost several due to that stress, including 2 of the Corriedale sheep (one being the ram). As much as I love the Corries, they just aren’t turning out to be the right breed for our farm, for various reasons. One of the other breeds I had looked at were Shetland sheep, a smaller and hardier breed from the Shetland Islands, Scotland.

Did some searching to find breeders in my area, and was surprised to find at least 4 within a reasonable driving distance. Made an appointment at the closest one, and now have a new fiber friend and 3 Shetland sheep!

One of the reasons I was wanting to have Corriedales is that they come in colors – the most common one around here is the cream, but there are also shades of brown and black. I discovered that the Shetlands come in those colors as well – white, and 10 registered shades of brown and black. Plus the lambs can be any of those colors and not necessarily the colors of the parents. The rams are typically horned, but they are curved horns – the pointy end is not toward the human! The ewes are usually polled (no horns).

I’m keeping the 2 Corriedales (Vicky and Sydney), and have found that Shetland/Corriedale crosses are not a bad thing, wool-wise. Hopefully next spring we will have some examples to show!




Ovine news

For those of you keeping score at home, the four sheepies are adapting to their new living arrangements with the 2 goats and the Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs. The goats think they are in charge of things at the moment, but I’m waiting for the day that Bruce realizes he’s bigger than the goats and doesn’t have to take anything from them. They are eating grass like it’s going out of style, which keeps me busy moving their pen every few days.

I now have a new-to-me electric clippers. I got a tutorial when I bought them, and a little practice on a ram that needed sheared. It is not easy to nick them (although possible) because of the blade guard, and I will not be shearing at warp speed anyway. Biggest things to remember are to keep the blade at a slight downward angle to get a close shear, and to pay attention to where you are on the sheep – watching for curves and dips in the body of the sheep.

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Vicky is ready for her close-up.
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Bruce and Tilly (in the front)
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Hard at work mowing the yard
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Tilly coming to investigate (and get some pets)
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Molly (goat) supervising the newcomers



Sheep? Why not!

Way back when I was in 4H, one of the main things I did was show Corriedale sheep at the Miami County fair. After I aged out of 4H, the sheep were sold and that was the end of that.

Fast forward to me learning how to knit. How to knit socks, in particular. That’s really all I wanted to do, is make socks…until that got boring.

Then I went to Wool Gathering with my Mom. Buy a spinning wheel, she said. Mom, I don’t know how to spin. You’ll learn, she said. Happy Birth-Annivers-mas. Um. Now I had a spinning wheel and spinning accessories. I learned how to spin (thank you Fiberworks!).

To spin, you need wool. Lots of it. Good quality prepared wool is expensive to buy, especially those to-die-for hand-painted braids….mmmm…..

I had a though. THE thought, that usually means an outlay of money, effort, and time. I CAN DO THAT.

It started with “I can dye plain wool that I’ve purchased somewhere. There are lots of books and tutorials on natural plant dyes (because we certainly have a lot of plants around here)” and ended with “I can grow my own wool”. Sigh.

Skipping a bit, I talked to a guy at the Darke County fair who ended up being the son of the guy we got the Corriedales from when I was in 4H, and he would love to work with us to get some good fleece lambs whenever we wanted them.

We picked them up yesterday.

In no particular order – Bruce (the ram), and his 3 ladies Victoria, Sydney, and Matilda. Corriedales are from Australia, so Aussie names just seemed the right thing to do!

(The green line marks them as the ones Scott thought had the best fleece – there were 20+ lambs in that area of the barn, so he did this to be able to pick them out of the crowd! It’s water soluble and will wear off.)

Corriedale’s are a dual-purpose breed – wool and meat. I’ve read that they can be milked as well, so will be trying that next year when the ladies have lambed. Sheep cheese is good stuff!

The gang will be staying in the barn for a while to get acclimated to our farm, then will be introduced to the goats and the Pyrs. As with all things around here, time and patience are the keys.