Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last Weekend in August...

It has been a while since I wrote a "weekend recap"...

The craziness of the summer is winding down and the HOT temps have given way to cool mornings and beautiful afternoons.  I almost feel guilty writing about the amazing weather we have had since the east coast is trying to dry out from the torrential rains and winds of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene...

Rams enjoying the afternoon sun...

I still have most Fridays off from work as things have not picked up much at the warehouse.  This past Friday was a lazy day - a greek salad from the greasy spoon in town, some buldozing/manure removal with the mini-excavator back by the horse barn, measuring cotton warp for a new project on my Dorset Floor Loom, and dinner with friends in downtown Flint.  While the company and the wine was great, the food at the restaurant didn't really impress me and we stopped for ice cream and then breadsticks on they way home... 

Saturday started out with a GREAT morning Zumba class...  I only had around 10 students because a lot of people were vacationing up north or running in the CRIM race which was happening in Flint on Saturday, but it was an energetic group and we got a great workout (thankfully burned off that ice cream and those breadsticks!!!).  I got home and starting "slaying the reed" on my loom (this means I was threading the strings through the slotted metal reed).

Saturday afternoon sun through the trees...

We then visited friends to see the progress on a landscaping project they had been working on...  this led to a few cocktails and snacks in their kitchen for most of the afternoon.  I made the mistake of not eating prior to the visit and I really overdid the snack thing...  Got home in time for evening chores and decided dinner was in order - a run up to the crappy little Chinese restaurant in town rounded out my poor eating decisions for Saturday.

Luckily my friend Peggy, a neighbor and fellow Zumba enthusiast, agreed to an impromtu Sunday Zumba session, and we danced, burned, and excercised all of those bad calories away!  It was a gorgeous afternon to Zumba behind her house and I am sure all of her neighbors wondered what all of the yelling and latin music was about.  Luckily her house is in the middle of 30+ acres so while they may have wondered, they were not able to see us sweating our butts off.

The rest of Sunday was filled with working outside, taking care of livestock, and enjoying the absolutely gorgeous weather.  It was a great weekend to do little and enjoy good friends, good food, good drinks, and great excercise...

Monday morning was back to the daily grind...

Monday morning painted sky...

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Me and Nicole...

Last night the "Zumba Crew" had our monthly margarita night...  After an hour of sweating our butts off at Zumba, we all met at Senor Lucky's Cantina to partake in a few cocktails and a lot of laughing...   a LOT of laughing.  Wayne doesn't Zumba but sometimes joins us for the margarita "after party"...

Anna and me...

Wayne and I happen to be "frequent flyers" at Senior Lucky's and for some reason they still let us in the door??!?  Margaritas often appear at our table before we have even ordered any and we have a good rapport with most of the wait-staff.  I always imagine that they must cringe when our motley mob of sweaty and disheveled Zumba-ers bust through the door unannounced each month.

Wayne and Nicole...

I can't say enough about how Zumba has changed my life...  Besides the excellent workout that has quite literally reshaped my body, there are some really amazing people who have become great friends.  We are brought together by common "fitness" and "fun" goals and find that we have more in common than we ever would have guessed...

For those of you out there who are considering joining a club, or starting an excercise program, or taking up a hobby, or whatever else might be running through your head...  stop considering and start doing.  You may find a whole community of friends you never knew existed.  You may find that you have a passion for your new endeavor that you never imagined.  You may become more fulfilled in your life than you have ever been.

Don't put these things off!!  Today is a gift and tomorrow is not gauranteed.  You will never regret taking that first step down the path, but you will certainly regret the step never taken.  Who knows, that path might lead to a table surrounded by friends and heavily ladened with MARGARITAS!!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Michigan Fiber Festival 2011

I had a great time yesterday at the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, MI...  It was a LONG day, but a lot of fun.

Waking up at 4:45 to do chores on the farm was easier than I expected and the 2.5+ hour drive across the state seemed to go by pretty quickly as well.  The whirwind day of visiting with friends, meeting people, showing sheep, showing fleeces, selling my clun ram lamb...  Let's just say that it seemed like it was time to leave for home WAY too soon.  The 2.5+ hour drive home and all of the evening chores, well... those were just as much "fun" as expected.

We did GREAT at the fleece show.  Wayne took two fleeces to exhibit, a white Merino fleece from Annie, and the new black Merino ram's fleece.  Annie's fleece took 2nd place in the white class, and the black fleece took first place in the black fine class...  Then Annie's fleece took Reserve Champion Fleece overall and we got to talk to the judge and she was very complimentary of both fleeces.

The judge indicated that she would have placed the white fleece first overall had it been a little longer...  You see it wasn't a full three inches because as a yearling Annie was sheared in May and this year she was pregnant and was sheared at the first of February...  So it was not a full years growth.  We are thrilled with our results at the fleece show!

The Merino lambs did well in the sheep show although Merinos are pretty slow growing so they are not much competition to the large framed Columbias they were competing against.  It is great to be able to exhibit our sheep and show the "fiber community" what we are producing.  As Merino breeders, I think we are really happy to make our mark with our fleeces while putting out nice sheep.

The Clun Ram "Y059" has a new home with Salle Haverkamp of Newago, Michigan.  Salle will be using "Cadbury" (so named because Salle thinks his face coloring reminds her of chocolate) to help produce a dairy sheep flock.  I am very excited to hear how he works out!

Y059 - aka "Cadbury" with Magic

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday with ME!!!!

It's been a BUSY week...

On Monday night the regular Zumba instructor was out of town so I taught class...  On Tuesday night we finally got around to deworming the ewe flock.  This was something we had on the "to do" list for a while but couldn't find the time for... good news - it's done!  Wednesday night - Zumba!!!  On Thursday we went to the Genesee County Fair and I got to be a board judge for the sheep shearing contest.

There were shearers there from all over the country - Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan...  and those are just the people I knew or had heard of before.  I thought I heard someone say they were from Iowa, but now I am not sure if I may have been dreaming.  Prior to the contest we hung out with other fiber enthusiasts (spinners, weavers, sheep farmers) and sold some of our hand woven rugs (VERY cool to be SELLING the stuff we are making!!!!).

Wayne worked with his Merino lambs all week so that they would be ready for the sheep show.  This morning we loaded them in the trailer along with a Clun Forset Ram lamb we are selling to a customer on the other side of the state and he headed off to Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, Michigan.  I will go over there for the day tomorrow which means a long day of driving, but TODAY I had to myself.

WHAT TO DO??!?!?!

I watered all of the potted pots and baskets of flowers on the porch as well as the herbs in the raised herb garden.

All of the water tanks for the animals got power-washed to get all of the grime and algae cleaned out.  Then they were filled with fresh water.

I fed a loaf of whole grain wheat bread to the Peacocks...  I actually bought the bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches (which I LOVE) but don't eat very often but when I saw the birds outside, I decided that they should have the carb-fest instead of me...

 Momma peahen and her baby...

At around 7:00 this evening I went for a run.  It was the first time in a LONG time that I have been running and it was so nice to rediscover the joys of running...

You see landmarks that you ONLY notice when running - they might help you keep track of your pace, mentally mark your progress, or just spark your imagination.  You find yourself alone with your thoughts - really deep in your mind, only to be suddenly pulled back by a barking dog, passing car, or yelling kid.  It is my best time to work through things that have been bothering me or to plan for the future or deal with the present. 

It is time when I enjoy watching my running partner and how he changes with direction, time of day, the incline, and other shadows (he is pictured below).
My Shadow...

I really was a sight I am sure...  Comfy cut-off black sweat shorts, an extra-large red "Detroit Red Wings" t-shirt with the arms cut out (I have no idea where I got it but I know that I did cut out the arms at some point), dirty white running shoes, and covered in sweat.

The fashion police may have more than enough reason to issue a warrent for my arrest, but tonight's run was MORE than worth whatever athletic-wear crimes I may have committed.

Monday, August 15, 2011

FIT and TRIM...

Hmmm - "FIT and TRIM"...   Although it sounds an aweful lot like I am about to blog about my latest health and diet routine, today I want to show you our Natural Colored Merino lambs.  This past weekend we started getting them ready for the Michigan Fiber Festival Sheep Show which Wayne will be taking them to NEXT weekend.  The process of getting a sheep ready for a show is called "fitting", and it involves a whole lot of "trimming", so the title "FIT and TRIM" seemed perfect!

These lambs were born in March and have been living the good life ever since.  Plenty of food and water, and only the occasional stress from deworming, innoculations, and well - that one time we took their moms away and they screamed for a few days...  But they have grown well and are ready for their show debut!

Each breed of sheep is "fitted" differently for show.
  • We started off by shearing the wool off of their bellys with a set of electric sheep shears...  it really "cleans up" their appearance and makes them look taller and longer.  It is the "black is slimming" of the sheep show world. 
  • Next we put them up on the trimming stand and trimmed their feet - all of the good feed they have been eating makes their hooves grow fast so keeping them nicely manicured is a necessity.
  • We then use an electric trimmer to clean up the face.  Some of the baby wool on the face needs to be trimmed to keep a neat appearance.
  • At this point we had to tag their ears with their registration tags and scrapie tags.  This is probably not the most pleasant part of their "day of beauty" but it is necessary.  All registered sheep need to have permanent identification.
  • We then get a carder out (a brush with tiny little teeth) and card the ends of the fleece...  this really helps to pull out a lot of garbage that has gotten stuck in the wool, and picks the fibers apart from each other.
  • Next is the trimming and this can take forever...  we trim, blend, shape, and trim some more until the sheep looks neat, tidy, and well formed.
  • The lambs are not completely finished, but they are well started so that when they get to the show, there is less work to be done and Wayne can focus on all of the finishing touches that will make them stand out in the ring.
  • Finally we put a sheep coat on them to keep them somewhat clean and they are turned back out with their lamb friends to complain to each other about the horrible ordeal they just had to endure...
Magic (ewe lamb) looking all "Fit and Trim"

Louis (twin ram lamb) sporting his new sheep coat..

Sammy (twin ram lamb) demonstrating how to stand on the trimming stand...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Good Decision...

Cody, the paint mare will go to her new home this weekend.  All week I have been getting text messages, and Facebook messages from the new owners asking questions and expressing excitement about her.  The kids have been cleaning brushes and getting things ready for their new horse.  I mentioned that they have picked a new name (Rayne - combination of "R"ich & W"ayne")...  as it turns out, "Daisy" and "Delores" were also on the short list - I think "Rayne" was a good call!

It thrills me to no end to see their excitement and to KNOW I have made a good decision.

Cody and I posing for the camera a few weeks ago...

Such a pretty face...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Moving Forward...

It has been a long year so far...

Farm life can be hard, and sometimes one finds that they have bitten off more than they can chew.  As people who take commitment very seriously, Wayne and I feel the need to put 100% in to our animals...  Sometimes though, there aren't enough 100%s to go around, right?  When a hobby becomes a 2nd full time job, it stops being FUN and starts to be overwhelming...


I had expected an extended lambing season, and although it was no suprise, it was stressful.  All of the little things that can and do go wrong in farm life seemed like huge obstacles...  To the point where walking through a muddy pasture seemed like more than I wanted to deal with.  So when something BIG would go wrong, such as losing a beautful healthy month old lamb who was caught in a section of electronet fencing (and electrocuted to death)...   It was too much.

Wayne and I took a long look at what we have going on and realized that we had gotten too big for the resources we have...  too many animals depending on our time, limited space, and limited finances...  too many other hobbies which we would like to spend more hours developing (Zumba, weaving, spinning, RELAXING!!!)...  So we had to make some hard decisions.


First of all, we decided to cut back on our ewe flock...  we have steadily worked our way up to close to 25 - 30 ewes over the years...  This is too many for us so we are cutting our numbers.  We will keep our Merino ewe flock as it is and would like to maintain 5 - 6 brood ewes as our flock size.  So as we raise or aquire nicer sheep, we will re-access our current ewes and cut back to maintain the highest quality flock. Our Merino endeavor feels right to us and seems to be going in the right direction (and faster than we expected). 

We will keep our Clun Forest ewe flock at around 5 - 6 ewes.  We have one old ewe who will be culled this year.  She raised twin ram lambs for the 2nd year in a row but this year it seemed to take a lot out of her - It just makes sense to cut back those old girls who would require special care.  I want to say that our clun lambs have grown exceptionally fast again this year and we see a demand for breeding stock in our area.

The Border Cheviot flock will be cut hard.  They are my favorite sheep, and probably because of this we have grown our flock larger than it needs to be.  Our three oldest ewes will go, I have also picked out two beautiful ewes who have been great producers who will be offered for sale in a starter flock package.  We are also going to offer the 4 North Carolina ewes for sale.  They had some really nice lambs and my goal was to cross them with my genetics and keep the resulting ewe lambs...  Our goal is to cut back to 8 - 10 cheviot ewes which will allow us to keep our quality high and our flock young.


This past Friday we said goodbye to three animals.  Barney could not possibly have made it through another winter and although he had been getting around pretty good, his weight had never built back up this summer and the flies were tormenting him...  He is now buried next to Luke up in the circle of spruce trees.  We also said goodbye to Akasha and Jag - probably the two hardest decisions in our lives.  'Kash had injured her hip many winters ago and had never been completely sound since, Jag was her very best friend and in his older age had become a very hard keeper.

In this terrible horse market, the thought of selling them and not knowing what kind of life they would have was terrifying.  A very wise friend once told me that "there are worse fates than death" and perhaps truer words have never been uttered.  I have seen horses that people have starved.  I have seen horses suffering from terrible lameness and pain because someone can not bear to say goodbye.  I have seen animals forgotten and neglected who no longer have the twinkle of life in their eyes...  There are indeed worse fates than death.

Cody, our 13 year old paint mare was visited by three young children and their parents yesterday.  They petted her, talked to her, fed her grass, sat on her back, and then sent me a note last night that they would love to give her a good home.  I am giving this mare to them with the understanding that although she is without price, she is definately not without value, and judging by the interaction yesterday, I made the perfect decision for both Cody and for these kids.  Plus she will only live 1.5 miles away so I will be able to see her and watch the relationship grow with these young horse-crazy kiddos...   AND, they want to rename her Rayne which is a combination of  "Rich" and "Wayne"...  How sweet is that?


I have a lovely Meyers parrot who I have probably never written about - and doesn't that say volumes in itself???   Patty was hand raised and is the sweetest bird I have ever met.  She loves people and loves interaction...   But obviously TIME is the one thing I have least of to give.  Luckily, my brother and his family are coming to visit from Minnesota tomorrow and they will be taking Patty home where she will get all of the love and attention that she deserves.


Things have not changed drastically and yet they have.  Some recent decisions have been very hard - I will continue to feel a great loss at the three friends we have said goodbye to a few days ago...  We will work to cut back our sheep flock to a manageable level...  but I feel very sure that we have made good decisions for the right reasons and I know we are headed in the right direction.

This is my first posting in a very long time...  I wish I could have taken all of you with me through the trials and errors of the last months, but I just needed to journey through it by myself.   And not to say that it has been a dark time because we have really had some wonderful and rewarding times this spring and summer. 

Here is a GORGEOUS little 2011 Cheviot Ram lamb...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shepherd's Picnic and Free Clinic - 2011

On Saturday afternoon, Ugly Dog's Farm hosted a picnic and free clinic for shepherds and fiber enthusiasts.  We lucked out with excellent weather - sunshine and a pleasant breeze blowing in from the west.
Carol Densmore from Cross Wind Farm gave an excellent presentation on processing fiber.
She demonstrated using various fiber processing tools for picking, carding, blending, and preparing fiber. 

Dr. Heather Ludlam from Windswept Farms talked with shepherds about various sheep health concerns...
Dr. Ludlam stressed the importance of developing a relationship with a veterinarian, controling parasites in your flock, and many other topics of interest to those who keep sheep and livestock.

Cindy Ciecewa from Pitchfork Ranch shared their flock nutrition program with those in attendance.  Cindy and Margaret raise and show Romney and Bluefaced Leicester sheep.
Letty Klein from Pine Lane Farm discussed fleece character.  Many attendees brought fleeces for Letty to use in her discussion and she talked about presentation, uniformity, handle (feel of the fleece), strength of the fiber, and many other things she has to take into consideration when she is asked to judge a fleece competition.

Letty also brought one of her rugs for us to see.  She is author of a wonderful book on braiding wool rugs from roving: The Shepherd's Rug - A Braided Wool Rug From Roving

In addition to all of this great education, we also enjoyed some excellent food!!!
Local spinners were also on hand to spend the afternoon and show off their skill.
It was a fun afternoon, we learned a lot, and enjoyed spending the day with fellow sheep and fiber friends!
What a great day at Ugly Dog's Farm!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011


MSB Small Flock Committee Sponsored:
Spring Picnic & FREE Workshop

June 4, 2011 – Noon
Ugly Dog’s Farm
5185 N Washburn Road
Davison, Michigan  48423

Topics Include:
Ÿ         Flock Health – Dr. Heather Ludlam of Windswept Farms will discuss various sheep health concerns in order to help shepherds diagnose/treat/prevent common problems in their flocks.
Ÿ         Fleece Characteristics – Letty Klein of Pine Lane Farm will talk with shepherds about various kinds of wool and what makes them unique.
Ÿ         Nutrition – Cindy Cieciwa and Margaret Van Camp of Pitchfork Ranch will talk about their flock nutrition program.
Ÿ         Wool Processing – Carol Densmore of Cross Wind Farm will teach various fiber processing techniques in this “hands on” session.

 Also Featuring:
Ÿ         Potluck Lunch – bring a dish to pass and enjoy talking with fellow shepherds and wool enthusiasts.
Ÿ         Fiber Art – our latest spinning and weaving projects will be on display – check out a few of our floor looms! (bring your spinning wheel or YOUR woolen-wares to show off).
Ÿ         Ugly Dog’s Farm Sheep – come and meet our purebred Natural Colored Merino, Clun Forest, and Border Cheviot sheep!


Feel free to call or email for more information!
 Pictures from the 2010 event...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What a Spring...

Spring has finally "SPRUNG"...  We had a gorgeous weekend here...  Most of the trees are budding out and the grass is growing like crazy with all of the rain we have had.

It has been a crazy and busy spring.  Our lamb count is up to 25 live lambs...  13 ewe lambs and 12 rams - there are 3 more ewes left to lamb.  With our fair share of both good and back luck, I will be happy when our last ewes are finished and we can focus our attention on other endeavors...  One lesson I will take forward with me from this lambing season is that not all ram lambs will be ready to breed when you think they should be.  I knew that our little guy from North Carolina had been brow beaten by his ewes and I knew that we would be delayed in our lambing.

The good news is that once he got breeding, he REALLY got busy...  Most of his breeding group has lambed within the same 2 week period...  So it seems that once he got a taste of being a breeding ram, he decided to take the job seriously.

In addition to "lambing luck", we have had our share of good and bad luck all around...  the crazy rains of spring helped to flood our basement - just about at the same time that our ewes finally started pushing out lambs...  luckily, these were my tried and true homegrown Border Cheviot ewes and they did us proud - easy lambings and good moms.  The sump pump clogged as the rains poured down and a couple inches of water accumulated before we found it.

Much time was spent sorting through and throwing away things that have been stored in the basement for a very long time.  Sometimes the universe has a way of telling you when you have procrastinated long enough...

Barney seems to be doing great right now.  He is enjoying his hand feedings twice a day now and it seems to be agreeing with him.  I am glad he seems to be doing so well...  he is completely off of the pain medicine.  I believe that I will not put him through the hardship of another Michigan winter, but I sure would like for his last days here with us to be good ones.

Wayne will return tomorrow from his trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and it sounds like he had an AWESOME time...  He helped our friends trim and show their sheep, got to shop all of the vendors at the festival, and he is also bringing back our new ram.  Wayne sounds thrilled with the new guy and I can hardly wait to see him in person.

We have finalized the agenda for the Sheep Breeders Picnic and Free Workshop which will be held here at the farm on June 4th...  Dr. Heather Ludlam will talk about flock health, Letty Klein will talk about fleece characteristics, Cindy Ciecewa and Margaret Van Camp will talk about sheep nutrition, and Carol Densmore will be doing a "hands on" session about processing fiber.  I will post all of the info on here within the next day or so...

We have also been buying and stacking up loads of last years hay to try to fill up the barn for next winter...  I always feel better when we have our food stores in place.

All of this and Zumba too...  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday nights and Saturday mornings (I am now teaching every other Saturday)... 

I am NOT saying that things are going to slow down any time soon here at Ugly Dog's Farm, but I do think that having the life and death struggles of the lambing barn behind us for the year will defintely free me up for more blogging.  Sometimes there is just too much processing going on and blogging is not an option.   I have grown to enjoy writing about what I think, what I know, and what I learn - and even when I don't write about it immediately, I WILL share all of it with you...

Happy Mothers Day to my Mom and to all the mothers out there...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Good Day...

April 27th will go down in history as a good day at Ugly Dog's Farm...

It rained most of the day and the mud is rediculous.  But the grass appears to have grown an inch and we have some new additions to report...

Doe Eyes had a beautiful ewe lamb around 11:30 am.  I couldn't get a good picture because this little lamb was immediately on the move.  It is usually day 2 before a lamb is playing and jumping as much as this girl was - I guess she is an over-achiever (I can totally relate)...

Covergirl followed up with a fiesty little girl of her own around 2:20 this afternoon.  This one likes to pose for the camera (again, I can relate)...

And at 4:00 Wayne found that one of the Clun Forest ewes had just finished giving birth to a handsome set of twin boys (once again - handsome, I completely relate!)...

It appears that a few other ewes will soon add to the lamb count...

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It is a beautiful sunny day!  Spring has been slow to arrive this year, but today is gorgeous and it's not just us humans who are basking in the sunshine... (click on any picture to enlarge)
The peacocks are struting their stuff...

The rhubarb has shot up out of the earth...

AND - the lambs are having a blast!




It's a GREAT day to be a lamb!


AND - a great day for a kiss!