Monday, July 16, 2007

Ducks in a Row

[Okay, so now I am kind of trying to use annoying cliches for titles]
Here is a picture of my dad put the finishing touches on the portable shed for my sheep that he and Bob constructed a VERY sturdy and rather complicated base for, and then Dad assembled. I don't think he really knew what he was signing up for when he agreed to help but he was determined to see the project through and finished it in a couple of days.

So the shelter has come in very handy when the sheep are grazing on pasture that is far away from their permanent shed. It is easily pulled around the pasture with the tractor to move with the sheep.

I've been milking Hibiscus for about three weeks now and tonight was the first time she walked into the milking stall of her own volition--without me having to chase her and catch her with my crook (my newest favorite tool). And she jumped up onto the milking stand and stood still the whole time I milked without me having to put the halter on her and tie her to it. Yeah! Since she was being so pleasant and cooperative I didn't mind it when she sniffed my face and licked my nose and then sniffed and chewed at my hair. I figure that it is like when they sniff their lamb's backside while their nursing and she is bonding with me. I did however have to draw the line when she decided to bite my hair and try to eat it. That hurt.

So, since I've been milking I've had milk to make cheese with which is exciting. The first wheel I made was based on a gouda recipe but I think the culture I was using was too old and the curd wasn't setting so I added vinegar and strayed pretty far from the recipe. I bought new cultures at Dairy Connection and the next wheel I made, of pecorino romano, was much more in line with the recipe. I was pleased that the cheese press I had ordered two months ago from Hoegger Dairy Supply had finally arrived when I made a batch of manchego. The next morning I was not so pleased to discover that the press was a piece of #$%*&%^ junk and had turned the cheese black and squished it unevenly so that it was basically triangular. When I called Hoegger's to complain and ask for my money back I was almost dissapointed that the person on the phone was totally cooperative and I had no opportunity to express my frustration at the totally crappiness of the press! I just ordered a different, much more expensive one from New England Cheesemaking Supply which should hopefully be more impressive.

After about two weeks of baby ducks living next to my couch in a dog crate I finally had enough of the smell, flies, late night chirping parties and straw everywhere. I found some old window frames and plywood and constructed a little nighttime shelter for them that I could close and latch up. I moved them outside to a little corner of the garden that had been blocked off from the sheep for the sake of some rosebushes and a tree and therefore still has some weeds and grass growing in it. The sheep have been curious about their new neighbors and maybe a bit jealous because they are denied access to their little wildlands. I discovered the ducks really do have a fondness for water (!!) and like to play in the stream coming out of the hose. They are growing amazingly fast now, and some of them are starting to get their grown-up feathers. There is one tiny runty yellow duckling that is only about the size of a week-old but he is still keeping up with the rest and hopefully will survive. The Muscovies seem a lot nicer than chickens when it comes to having a runt in their midst.

In order to have lambs born at the time of year when we have the best pasture around here (winter) I put Kinky Freesian, the ram, in with the ewes this month. Most places, the ram goes in with the flock in the fall and lambs are born in the spring, but since we don't have a whole lot eat around here in the summer I am trying to buck the system, so to speak.
For the first couple of weeks I kept looking out in the pasture to see if Kinky was putting the moves on any of the girls, but while he seemed interested in them I never saw any action. The third week I put a marking harness on him that has a place for a wax "crayon" on his chest and marks the wool of any ewes he mounts. So, now every morning at feeding time I scan the backsides for the telltale green mark. There have been four or five definite hits now and a number of apparant attempts, as well as some ewes with markings in weird places! Evidently Kinky doesn't lack in the sheep charisma department he is just discreet about his encounters and waits for when no one is looking.

free hit counters
free hit counters