Friday, June 22, 2012

Shearing in Maryland

I would have thought that there were lots of sheep and goat shearers in Maryland due to all of the farms. I was in for a surprise. There are only 3 listed on the Maryland shearing site and I managed to use all three.

David Todd, the first shearer only does sheep. He is more used to production shearing, where lots of sheep are run through in a hurry. We were expected to already have the next sheep ready, so we had to scramble to get the hooves and CD&T shots done as he sheared. Above, Columbian is being sheared. She did not have a very heavy fleece.

Anne, the second shearer, uses the pole-and-stretch out method of shearing, similar to how alpacas are usually shorn. Ruth, my friend on the left, helped Anne by holding down Ruby (the goat). This method is slower than the other methods, but the cuts are reduced. However, the biggest disadvantage for me was that I had to stay holding heads all day long while sitting on the ground.

Emily Chamberlain was the last shearer. She did a lovely efficient job of shearing the remaining goats. I am scheduling her again and she has me on her calendar for three days in October 26-28. I am doing an fiber festival on October 27 and you are all welcome to come watch her in action. I have already scheduled my spring shearing for the last weekend in March. It is Easter. What better time to do it? Right now she will not shear alpacas. I am trying to talk her into going to the alpacas shearing school and told her that I will give her a scholarship, if she decides to go. She has shorn alacas before. I hope she will again!

Marc is trimming the hooves on Hummer, our seven year old buck. Check out the awesome horns!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Harvesting Hay

John finally showed up on Sunday afternoon to cut our hay. It is a lengthy process and the weather plays a big part. Once cut, it has to be fluffed until it dries. If there is no sun or it rains, it all takes longer.

The grass is so high that you can barely seen the haybine (mower.) It is cutting the width of the red mower and shooting the hay to the middle.

Above is a better shot of the haybine. It is attached to the tractor by a long arm which swings around and cuts the grass.

Once cut, the hay has to be raked which is basically fluffing and turning the hay, so it will dry evenly. John had to fluff it three times. Fortunately it dd not rain, but we did not have a lot of sun either. On the fourth day, the hay was sucked into the baler on the front side.

And a bale - packed nice and tight and already bound with twine - popped out the back end.

Once the hay is baled, the farmer drives around with a wagon. This is not an ordinary wagon. On the front right side it has a scooper that grabs the bale and lifts it onto a platform. Once the platform is filled, the platform is raised and the bales are raised into the back of the wagon.

When the wagon is full (this one holds 160 bales), it is driven to the barn - or wherever the hay is going to be stored. The wagon is then tilted 90 degrees, so the bales are resting on the ground. The idea is that the wagon is pulled forward and the hay is left in a neat stack. This obviously did not happen here, but it did not really matter, since the hay needed to be stacked in the hayloft, or in this case the garage. Sorry, Marc, but you were not here to do the lifting, so the hayloft is clean, but empty.

My neighbors, Harry and Ruth, came down and graciously volunteered to help me get the hay stacked. I am really grateful, because 20 minutes after we finished, we had a thunderstorm run through. Nothing like a little monsoon in Maryland!

We harvested 283 bales. It will feed my animals approximately 70 days. I plan to hoard it in case we do not get a second cutting. The farmer's machinery was too big to cut all of the areas, so a tractor with a sickle mower is looking like a necessity. For now, we are going to put up electric fencing and let the goats clear the other areas. They have all been shorn, so I do not have to worry about weeds and seeds getting stuck in their fiber.

Above is my new washing area. It was finished yesterday. I went down this morning and started washing and dyeing. I now feel at home, since I can get back into the routine of starting my week washing, dyeing and drying . It helps that the cellar of the red barn is a little less creepy now that the lights are on and part of it has been swept out. We found a baby snake in the area and lots of snake skins. Fortunately these are black snakes and I have been assured that they are not poisonous!

Tomorrow I am going on a field trip to The Mannings, a shop in Pennsylvania, that is pretty famous in this area. They are doing a spinning day and I plan to surprise my friend, Joan Ruane, from Bisbee, Arizona, who is teaching a class there.