It has been three weeks since my return from Denmark. Since Nanoo Nanoo has stolen my thunder and already touched on what she thinks I think were the highlights of that journey, I will not try to elaborate further. I will only add that it is always special to be able to be with my Danish family and my Danish friends. Jeg vil gerne sige rigtig mange tak til Axel og Kirsten, Jens og Kirsten, og Søren og Pige for de hyggeligste besøg. Det var dejligt at igen bor hos jer Susanne og Per, Dorte og Nils. Finally thanks to all the Danes who make my adopted “home” such a special place. Tak allesammen!
As was expected my return home to Whitefish Bay Farm did not allow for much time to catch my breath. A day after I got back the last of this years lambs went to market. We are now down to our “winter” population: this year it is 129. Immediately after selling the lambs we had to begin preparing the pastures for the fall breeding groups. While I worked on the other pastures the entire ewe flock was together for one last period of six days in pasture #3. At least they were spared having to be out there during the heavy rains of the previous two days. They had beautiful fall weather to be together as a group. The ash, birch and maple were starting to show nice fall colors and there was still plenty of grazing left in #3.
As September and October tend to be one of the most attractive times of the year to visit Door County due to the fall colors, we also have been exceedingly busy in the Art Gallery and B&B. Gretchen especially has spent hours in the Gallery. Yarn and finished fiber products have sold especially well this year, for which we are always glad. The pace has, however, been frantic at times. It will be very nice to finally close the Gallery for the season in a couple of days. Gretchen finished up spinning fleeces from Nutbread and Ruby while she manned the Gallery. In addition we continued with our dye project with the cosmos flowers from the garden. It is truly amazing the lovely yellow color they produce considering the intense red and violet shades of their flowers.
The results from all three projects are pictured here: Nutbread’s yarn on the left, the Cosmos dyed yarn in the middle and Ruby’s yarn on the right.
In the midst of all the other activity, we devoted an entire day (as we always do in October) to sorting the ewes into breeding groups and getting them together with a ram, each in their own separate pasture. This year we decided to cut back on our breeding numbers. There are 63 ewes currently with 4 rams (that is a drop of over 20 ewes from last year). While we plan to retain about the same size adult flock next year there will be more ewes who are “retired” and whose sole major job will be the production of wool. We are scaling back significantly our emphasis on selling breeding stock. As of October 13th Rhett, Ulmer, Stud Muffin and Vermicelli have their own pool of ewes. So far breeding appears to be going well. With less than a week gone over 50% of the ewes have already been well marked, despite often miserable rainy, cold weather.
This year we also decided to try to keep the breeding groups as close to home as possible. It is the only time of the year when the sheep (at least the breeding flock) does not come into the barn at night. It is physically impossible for us to keep all of the groups separate and also bring them inside each evening. Throughout much of the summer and into fall we have had what sounds like a pretty good size pack of coyotes in the neighborhood. Their howling has been rather intense most nights. While we have yet to experience any loses to coyotes we do not wish to loose any sheep to them. Hence, our breeding groups are all as close to home as possible. They are hopefully protected by as many layers of electric fence as we can possibly set up for them. We will not be really comfortable until everyone returns home in a little less than 4 weeks.
In order to not end on such an ominous note we would like to present the following view of the farm as the fall colors began to appear.