New Neighbors

The Friday of Memorial Day weekend dawned beautifully. At around 6:30, I left the house, headed for the barn to get the sheep out onto a new swath of pasture. I was greeted by this peaceful sight in the backyard, near the vegetable garden. Newborn FawnsMom and two very newborn White-tailed fawns were relaxed and appeared hopeful that I would just leave them alone. Both fawns were very shaky on their feet, but eventually got up, looking for breakfast. Mom, on the other hand, never took her eyes off of me.

Newborn Fawns

It is almost 100% predictable that we will see our first fawns on the farm during the Memorial Day weekend. In addition, over the last few years it has been almost as predictable that the fawn or fawns will be born in the “Orchard” pasture. It makes me think that this is the same mother, who knows that she has a very secure location for delivering her fawns. I left them alone after taking their pictures from a distance. I continued on with my chores, setting up the new pasture fence and getting the flock out. A half hour later, with the sheep taken care of, I returned to the house. The family had moved a few feet to the south (in the deeper grass on the other side of the fence). Another 30 minutes later they had melted into the landscape. They are still somewhere nearby. I have seen Mom in the nearby pastures every day since. Welcome to the neighborhood!

We are back!

Finally! We are back out on pasture. It took until May 14th (appropriately Mother’s Day) but our shepherds got their acts together and let us out onto pasture full time. Yep, this is Brie (not the old grumpy guy) writing. We have been looking out the door and have seen a lot of green grass, but the shepherds had all sorts of excuses why we could not be out there.

First, it was that the pastures had not yet grown well enough. Then, the old guy finally got the water lines pressurized. That is always a pretty good sign that we are about to head out. Then grumpy started to hem and haw, something about the electric fence not working well enough to protect us. He spent two whole days wandering all over the place, checking the fence lines. Finally, he announced that he had found a short circuit and had fixed it. It was something about the insulation on the wires wearing out where they go under the machine shed. Any fool would know that that meant the entire shed was “wired”. Of course only a couple of folks would have been effected. The old shepherd, whenever he tried to open one of the steel doors would have gotten a jolt. The same would have happened to Chucky, the woodchuck, whenever he crawled under the siding, as he often does. In our humble sheep opinions, a good jolt would have done both of those guys some good! Sorry…I got sidetracked.

Finally the folks who run this place announced that we could head out. Once they opened the barn door there was no stopping us. 1st day on pasture 2017 What a pleasure after eating baled hay since last November. Needless to say we enjoyed the warmth, the sunshine, the lake breezes and, most important, the green grass. The two shepherds hung around long enough that we even had to check up on them to see if they were okay. Dana took on that role perfectly. DanaAfter a time we figured that they needed a bit of love and attention. So some of us obliged. This is a picture of Willeta and the Nice Lady having a nice conversation. Gretchen & Willeta We humored the two people for a while. Finally they got the message that we had better things to do, i.e. grazing lush grass. With that I gotta go or I’ll miss out on my share of the pasture.

Respectfully submitted, Brie

Running to Catch up…As Usual

Lots of things are going on at the farm and I am guilty of not getting around to writing about them. Hopefully I will get a bit caught up here. Perhaps shortly down the road, I will be able to add more. Spring has had a slow and staggered beginning. Yet finally we saw enough sunshine and felt enough warmth to believe that the weather had turned the corner. Many of the early migratory birds arrived on schedule. (In a few instances they were ahead of schedule.) One of the pleasures we have experienced regularly over the last few years has been in increase in numbers of Sandhill Cranes that have visited us. I can remember one of the first springs that occurred after we purchased the farm in 1983. I was exceedingly excited to see a single crane in the middle of what is now our main hay field. I had never before seen one. I grabbed my camera and added a telephoto lens and spent an hour slowly sneaking up on the bird. Much of the approach was done crawling across the field. The pictorial results were poor: a bird far off and very difficult to see. It was a number of years before I saw another crane on the property. Now, over the last few years the Sandhills arrive early in April and daily spend lots of time on the farm, often in small groups, bugling their presence. This year the numbers have been very pleasing. Toward the first of May we were greeted by a flock of at least 25 cranes in the middle of the hay field. They did not give me enough time to get good photos, but they provide a magnificent show, especially when they all decided to take flight. Our flock is nothing to compare to what can be seen along the Platte River, but they still give us an amazing  thrill!Cranes in April

Closer to the house our Magnolia bush has been growing well since we planted it a few years ago. This year it performed a beautiful welcoming to spring. Beneath it grow an early blooming variety of tulip. This year they timed their blooming to perfectly coincide. MagnoliaSadly, after two glorious days of blossoms, we were hit by two nights of late frosts. It was cold enough to “burn” most of the Magnolia blossoms. Nevertheless, from a distance the bush/tree remained gorgeous. Now, over two weeks later, we have a lovely carpet of white blossom petals below the bush. We are hopeful that the hard freeze did not do significant damage to the cherry and apple blossoms in the county. We will have to wait to see if the fruit crop was harmed.

Going into late May (with the exception of the Ashes) almost all of the native deciduous trees have budded out and soon will have a full leaf cover. Pastures are growing and grazing sheep will soon be a regular routine.

Fleeces…Yes, Spring…?

Oh how we have struggled trying to cope with a slow, questionable spring! Since shearing it has been cool (often cold) and damp. We have had rain, snow, some ice, lots of wind and occasional sunny days. Despite the calendar revealing that we have reached spring, it has been difficult to recognize the season.

We sheared the flock on the first weekend in March. Despite getting the sheep back into clean jackets within a day of being sheared, it soon became evident that most of the flock was uncomfortable due to the damp, cool temperatures. This was despite the barn being closed up to minimize drafts and hopefully save some heat. Putting more fuel into the engines, (i.e. upping the hay and grain ration) did seem to help, but not much. The rams were especially uncomfortable alone in their palace (otherwise known as the barn addition). We decided to set up a pen for them in the shearing area of the main barn where it would be a bit warmer. The problem with such a move is that it also places the rams within a few feet of the ewes, who were just as excited to see the boys due to the proximity. In addition, I closed off the addition by placing plastic across the interior door and window. Finally things began to warm up; the sheep acted more comfortable, and they finally started to put on some weight again. Only yesterday did it finally warm up enough that I took down the plastic. Much to the ram’s displeasure they moved back into their quarters this morning.

There are some subtle signs of spring. Grasses are turning green (albeit slowly). The spring migratory birds are on the move. The first Bluebirds showed up on March 28th. Turkey Vultures returned on the 31st. Our winter population of Juncos has been growing, which is a sure sign they are heading north. Within a few days they may all disappear. They are being replaced by other sparrow species. One of our favorites of the early sparrows is the Fox Sparrows. For a week now three of them have been busy cultivating the duff under the cedar trees outside our studio window. Fox Sparrow

The two of us have been finishing off the last of our fiber projects that dated back to late fall, when we abandoned the gallery for the warmth of the studio in the house. I just finished the last blanket that I will weave in the studio this spring. It is to be the last of this series. Last Winter Weaving Once we return to the gallery in a month or so, I will be weaving a new pattern. Also next fall will mark a new pattern on the loom in the studio. Gretchen is also putting the finishing touches on a set of pillows that she recently wove.

We know there are some of you who are wondering when our fleeces will be placed up for sale. The sale will occur this month. We are just finalizing the plans and finishing the last of the final skirtings. Our customers from the last couple of years will receive an email soon regarding the sale, as will anyone who signed up over the last 12 months to be on out mailing list. If you are not on our list and wish to be notified, contact us immediately, using our Fleece Contact Form.

Lastly, the vegetable garden has been started. The clock is ticking on warming up the soil in the garden. While we wait, some of the plants have been started indoors. On the list, as always, are artichokes, at least 6 types of tomatoes,  7 varieties of peppers and eggplant. In addition, the dyer’s garden has a start with an especially large planting of marigolds already germinating. Baby TomatoesIt is hard to believe but, if all goes well these little dandies will be producing a ton of tomatoes by late July!

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Upcoming Events

* We are open year round for the sale of yarn. Before May 20th we are open by happenstance or by appointment

* Sheep shearing, early March

* Online Fleece Sale, mid-April. Contact us to be on the mailing list for immediate updates

* May 1st - the Bed and Breakfast opens for 2017

* Whitefish Bay Farm Gallery opens for its regular exhibition season Friday, May 20th. Open every day except Tuesdays, from Noon to 5 PM

* Special Gallery exhibits. Check here throughout the season for special events and shows. The fiber dyeing will occur (weather permitting) into early October

* Gallery closes for the season after Sunday, October 16th

* The Bed and Breakfast closes for the year October 22, 2017

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