Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us here at Sheep Thrills Farm, we wish you all a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!!!
And to all our troops serving in the military around the world, thank you for serving! In our eyes, you are heroes - each and every one of you!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

First, I Moved The Sheep... the far end of the pasture in two makeshift pens. I made sure the sheep would be safe, but also that they really couldn't see what was about to happen just on the other side of the barn.
Earlier this year our neighbor decided to sell her place to our county and the Parks & Rec Department. They were very interested in adding the land, which has part of the wetlands stream running through it, to the land they owned behind our houses. The large field has springs and is the last sheet wetlands in Arizona. Our neighbor, a divorcee my age, had bought the house from one of her children, using it to restart her life again. With the economy taking a downturn, she was feeling the pinch of how much her mortgage would eat up her paychecks...paychecks now shrinking with her hours being reduced to save money. The house needed a lot of repair and work - much more than she could do herself or afford to have someone else do for her.
Earlier this summer we were approached by Parks & Rec and our local fire department, Highlands Fire District, to let us know the house was scheduled to be burned (after other measures were done such as asbestos abatement, land was to be shaped behind the house into a retention berm for retaining any runoff from the fire so as not to contaminate the watershed). While the idea of having a house go up in flames right next door didn't set too well, both my DH and I know how important this training could be for our fire department. If they would be considerate of a few things we requested, sure...we were all for this being used as a training event for firemen.
"Why are we all way over here? And why are all those silly chickens running around like chickens with their heads cut off?"

Safety for the sheep, chickens, and our property was of utmost importance for me (and my DH). The last thing I wanted was my barn going up in flames with my winter's supply of hay and feed! I was assured things would be protected with firemen assigned to specifically watch our property to prevent any and all damage to our place. Well, OK...but...
I was informed that I shouldn't worry...or they would be replacing everything if something happened.
I moved the sheep and chickens anyway.
Above, the house with boarded up windows and most everything removed inside to just leave a shell of its former self. We got a tour in a briefing the day before the burn.
Signs of a fire started in the main floor bathroom. The firemen had training inside the house on dealing with a smoke-filled situation and how to find their way out of thick smoke before the main fire was started.
A bit more smoke with some ladder work.

The fire beginning in earnest. It was amazing that the actual fire took the house down in less than half an hour.

My DH, Ralph, on the roof of the barn taking video of the whole process. The smoke actually got thick enough to roust him from his loft to join the rest of we mere mortals on the ground. I got a thick blast of it when I was checking to make sure all the chickens were out of the barn. I found a few stragglers who would not leave the barn for anything. As the smoke was too bad to argue with them, I left them to either smarten-up or be chicken dinner. Their choice.

More smoke. I couldn't help but think of all the firemen as boys with infatuation with fire. Probably a leftover thought from watching both my brother keeping the campfires flaming when we were kids and my hubby doing the same thing during other family camping trips. Guys and fire.

The roof fully engulfed in fire now. The heat was intense, even upwind. This is the point where we had very thick smoke at the barn and Ralph had to abandon ship from the roof.

Totally engulfed in flames. The whole burn took less than half an hour from start to finish.

Cooling off the flames on the side of the house facing our barn. This is the point that was scary as debris, mostly just flakes of burnt carbon, were lifted into the air by the heat and flames of the fire. There were even firemen from the Fuels Reduction Team stationed in the pasture behind our places to make sure browned, dry grasses weren't set alight. That was my big concern....our grasses are so dry now it would have only taken one unseen spark for a field fire. Luckily, everyone was really on top of things. Professionals all!

All that's left of the house. The foundation and rubble will be removed by a contractor and the ground shaped and hydro seeded. It will blend in with the rest of the vegetation by next year.
Way back in the Dark Ages, when I did investigations for the US Army on Fort Hood, I did a few fire/arson investigations. That was back when there were no special fire investigators. What I saw and knew then came back to me as I stood there watching how fast this fire took this house. Although there were no furnishings inside the house, this illustrates just how fast a fire can take a structure - set or not. It is something to really respect.

And it showed how professional each and every firefighter was in handling this situation. We never really think of these professionals unless we have a need for them. They aren't seen everyday as police are when they are on patrol. Firefighters kind of get the short end of the stick when it comes to PR. This whole situation made me stop and realize just how much we count on these people...
...and how much respect they deserve.

...and we now have a new view out the sunroom windows! :)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's That Time Again

It's that time of year again. Or rather it's been that way for a while here. Time for turning the ram (or ram lamb in our case) in with the girls and let Nature take its course.
"What the heck is going on at the barn? And most importantly, why aren't we wethers invited?"
And here he is himself, Jehovah-Jireh's Loki. This youngster is the sire for next year's lamb crop - er, um...provided he figured out what he's supposed to actually do with the girls. I have seen him try to court the girls off and on, but not I haven't actually witnessed Loki and any of the ladies "in action", so to speak.
Loki is the result of AI breeding. (Artificial Insemination) His sire, Island Skeld, is quite a nice looking and very well-bred ram. All of Skeld's F1 lambs (the first offspring resulting from an AI breeding) are white, like Loki. But when I started looking at the F2 generation, I saw lots of spots and colors showing up. We may have white, or some very interesting colors this spring. As most shepherds will tell you, lambing is very much like Christmas can be very surprised at the outcome as well as excited in anticipation of what you might get.
Three of the girls in the Breeding Group: Loretta, Amanda, and Ailee.

Lacey must be gone walkabout or in the barn finishing up what everyone else left in the feed pans this morning. Lacey was the first ewe I placed in with Loki. I'll need to start watching her next month for signs of impending birth if she settled soon after they were penned together.
I'm not really used to having breeding spread out this way - a ewe every week until they were all in with the ram. Loki was supposed to come with another ram lamb his age, but for some reason that didn't happen. I needed to put him in with other sheep for company but the wethers would have really bashed him as he was so young and small at the time. Lacey is the sweetest ewe I have as well as the smallest so I decided she should be the first to meet Loki. She's both protected him as if he was her lamb and also become smitten with him as her paramour. She thinks I was looking at something else, but I saw her batting those big brown eyes at this little Hunk-O-Ram. ;-)
Lacey early last year after shearing.

So, c'mon guys and gals...I've missed having lambs around and I know you girls have too. Who knows what we'll get? I'm not sure, but I can hardly wait for spring and lambing. :)
...and we have a growing list of people wanting Sheep Thrills Farm sheep. Time to get to work, Loki!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Off On A Walk

Part of my DH's post-surgery rehab is to walk. The only caveat is that he is to walk on flat trails or in places such as the grocery store or the mall. We're lucky in that just a short way from Oleo Acres is a really nice place to get out in the fresh air, view the locals in their habitats, get some sun, and still keep to flat trails. It's called the Kachina Wetlands Project, completed a few years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers as a way to utilize reclaimed water. It's a beautiful area with great views of the San Francisco Peaks.
I thought you might like to come along:
A view of the Peaks. Mt. Humphrey's (the peak on the left) is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 ft. We live at 7,000 ft. just south of the town of Flagstaff, at the base of the Peaks.
Our recent snow was melting fast on the south face of Humphrey's Peak. You can see the clusters of golden aspens gracing the slopes.
As we walked along, groups of Juncos flew out in front of us as if to lead the way. This one stayed long enough in the rushes for me to get a shot of him.
Looking northwards to Mt. Elden where all the TV, radio and various communication towers are set. The day before this, snow covered Elden as if someone had dusted it with powdered sugar. It used to be totally covered with pines and aspens but a huge forest fire claimed it. It is recovering, but slowly on this side. Many people hike the trail up Elden. You have to keep aware as well as keep your dogs on a leash as there are wild things watching you. It's not unusual to hear reports of mountain lion and bear watching hikers. Hikers must be yummy, eh?
The ducks you see on this pond usually stay throughout the year except for sessions of bad weather or complete freezes of the water in these ponds. There are large lakes nearby where waterfowl retreat until smaller ponds re-open at thaw. Part of the ponds were still frozen and unavailable to the ducks. They stuck to the open waters on this day.
I love seeing the cattails and rushes here. I may have to give using them in basket making a try. Try as I might, I can't seem to get the cattails established along the banks of our creek in the pasture. While our grasses get pretty tall and afford the waterfowl refuge, it would be nice to have a patch of cattails as well.
Another view across one of the ponds. You wouldn't know it, but there's a gated community just on the other side of the trees. (Our hoity-toity neighbors) Clearly the people who live in that community adhere to the "Good fences make good neighbors" policy. When that community, and its golf course, were built, many wildlife trails and habitats were destroyed in the process. We used to see way more fox, turkey, mule deer, elk, and bears and lions before they built. I still hear turkey when I'm down at the barn, but now it's the turkeys a neighbor down the road is raising, not the wary wild birds that used to come through.
And while we were walking we spied a flash from a dark colored animal we had flushed from its hiding place. At first we thought it was a fox, but it turned out to be a cat.
A very large cat! (This taken with my telephoto lens at quite a distance)

I'll try to take you along again, if you like. Our Flagstaff Urban Trail System has now connected up with the trails in the Kachina Wetlands. We know where they connect, but haven't explored there yet as some of the trails are a wee bit more rugged. Maybe next time.
Anybody want to come along? :-D