Our Blog

Ranch Update

posted Nov 30, 2016, 12:01 PM by Lynn Moody

It has been so long since I blogged last - we have been that busy! - it seems like I have time for email and to do quick postings on Instagram.  But, finally, here is a ranch update for those of you who are interested which is, I hope, as Google says, Everyone in the world -

On November 18 we left in a rented minivan, to attend the annual Wool Symposium of the northern California Fibershed.  I went as a vendor this year - last year (our first) I was a speaker, subject Santa Cruz Island sheep.  The symposium was in Pt. Reyes Station, and wonderful friends Sandra and Rob at Black Rock Ranch let us stay in their beautiful home at nearby Stinson Beach.  This year Jim was kind enough to go with me and did most of the driving, and dear friend and neighbor Devon was kind enough to ranch-sit for us.  We took scads of wool as roving and raw fleeces, as well as some llama/cotton blend drum-carded batts, some yarn, and a few loom-knitted hats.  Sandra brought Santa Cruz Island wool batts, an herbal smudge stick, home-grown eggs, and some lavender arrangements.  The weather forecast for Pt. Reyes Station included 100% rain prediction for the Saturday (19th) of the symposium so instead of the planned 10 foot by 10 foot space, we were limited to an 8-foot long table with a little space in front.  Most of the fleeces and roving had to stay in the van parked outside.  The llama/cotton batts sold very well, and the Santa Cruz Island wool yarn, and one Navajo-Churro fleece sold (thank you beloved customers!!!!!!!!!!!) and the rest of the wool etc. came home with us and most of it is advertised on Etsy right now.  A couple items have sold already, wonderful, and thank you beloved Etsy customers!!!!!!!!!!!!).  Sandra sold a batt and some eggs.  We had fun, and the talks and panel discussions in the symposium were VERY interesting and timely.  Amazing what folks are doing.  Fibershed is awesome.

Speaking of vendoring and selling stuff (or not) my plan is to have a booth at the San Miguel Christmas parade and craft fair on December 17 from 2 pm to after dark.  So if you are in the area come on by.  We didn't make it last year as Jim was ill and it was raining and cold.  No way am I going to let my spinning wheel get wet.  So if it rains this year I will not take the wheel(s) but will bring knitting instead.  Always plenty of that to do.

In the normal course of doing business, I had taken some photos of the young Santa Cruz Island rams - born in 2015 - several of whom are casually for sale (meaning I haven't officially listed them yet!) to serious breeders or future breeders of Santa Cruz Island sheep.
This is Buster, ear tag number 30, handsome dude, wouldn't you say?
This is Thirty-three (ear tag 33, naturally).
This is Thirty-five (35), through the fence.
Here is Twenty-One (21).

There are more, some of the photos won't upload, don't ask me why.  Feel free to inquire if you are in the market for a very nice Santa Cruz Island ram!

There is a group photo, Blake with the black legs is not for sale, nor is Peabody who is a member of the same cohort.

Other than the aforementioned, we have had a little rain - a little over an inch in late October which I already blogged about, 1.6 inches on Sunday Nov. 20 (after returning from the Fibershed symposium), and last weekend 0.3 inch from a couple quick storms.  The hills and especially the canyons are greening up.  Jim is looking at next week to plant our barley fields, in the meantime the ewes, lambs, and wethers along with Georgie the llama, are in the west and middle pastures to eat down the stubble and green grass which volunteered.  The young rams, some of which pictured above, are in the east field with Sahne the llama, doing the same.  We are in a bit of a dry spell now but hoping for more rain after next week.

And that's enough blogging for now.  If you haven't already be sure to check out our Instagram posts.




The Green and My Worry

posted Nov 7, 2016, 2:21 PM by Lynn Moody

So far this autumn - in late October - we got/have gotten 1.15 inch of rain.  (we measure, yes)  One inch of it came as a subtropical storm, was warm, and I think that is why the seeds in the soil sprouted right away and have been growing like crazy.  In places the grasses are two inches tall already.  Seems like in past years, the annuals grow more slowly in response to rain.  It's glorious.  So on Sunday Petunia and I went for a walk and I documented some of these crazy growing little plants.
Here's a view of mixed annual grasses and forbs (herbaceous non-grasses).  Can't tell yet what they are but I did see lots of filaree sprouting up.
Here's a view of another stand, even further along, mixed grasses and forbs.  This is the floor of the small canyon that contains our house.
And a close-up of some of the plants in the scene above.  See how rocky our canyon soils are!  Clay and rocks.  Our floodplain soils, and the river terraces, can also be rocky and are very sandy.
This is a little way up the canyon wall.
And, for a macroscopic view, here is a shot looking downstream, more or less southward, toward the mouth of the canyon.  You can just see the floodplain.  Also you can see part of the roof of our house.  The reddish brown plants in the foreground are California buckwheat, the red tops are last summer's flowers, hopefully containing some seeds for the quail, other birds, and small animals (or big animals) to feast on.

Here is my artistic statement of the day - a barn owl feather perched picturesquely on a small chamise shrub.

With all this green, it's very difficult to not feel good and encouraged.  But I'm one of those people who, if I don't have anything to worry about, will find or manufacture something.  So now my worry is that we won't see any more rain for a long time - I would very much like the rains to continue to keep the green going!  The 10-day forecast has no rain in the prediction for our area.  Well, worrying won't help...  If you are in California, enjoy the green!

Kangaroo Rats

posted Oct 29, 2016, 10:24 AM by Lynn Moody

The other evening I was in the chicken yard, putting the chickens to bed, and encountered this little creature, a kangaroo rat.  I read a little about them, and decided to share.

I know these two photos are very similar but there is a subtle difference between the photos and I like them both, so I am putting them both in!

Kangaroo rats are in the same family as pocket mice (who knew?!) and the family name is Heteromyidae (if you're interested in such things).  They make underground burrows - we have their burrows all over the place - which they use for shelter, nesting, and caching food.  They eat seeds and some green vegetation, the greens get eaten right away and the seeds are stored.  Some species never drink water, instead their bodies manufacture water from their food.  They have litters ranging in number from 1 to 8, in late spring through early fall.  I guess that explains why we have so many, judging from the number of burrows we find.  They drum with their hind feet (like rabbits) and this might be to establish territory, or a response to predators.  They can run or hop and we have seen them at night doing both - they are nocturnal as you could guess from their big eyes.  We very rarely see them during the day.  Kangaroo rats take dust baths or sand baths for grooming and to mark territory.  At burrow entrances, we often see imprints of their long tails.  They are eaten by any nocturnal carnivore, and I believe the barn owls (probably other owls too) prey on them.

There's a photo of a barn owl sleeping in the barn, on an airplane wing, waiting for night to hunt.  This is the parent of a nest of owlets.  As of last night, the owlets were flying around and beginning to disperse - I hope they stick around to continue to keep the nocturnal rodents in check.

Kangaroo rats are very numerous around here, some species are endangered, not sure what species ours is but we have plenty of them.  They don't seem to be pests, most likely their numbers are kept in check by predators, we can't see that they do any harm - unlike the woodrats which eat my garden plants and chew up the wiring in our pickup truck which is too big to park in the garage.  The barn owls are welcome to the woodrats too.

Santa Cruz Island Ewes and Lambs

posted Oct 18, 2016, 9:33 AM by Lynn Moody

We are in somewhat of a holding pattern with respect to our sheep - shearing is finished for fall and is nowhere near to starting for spring, we haven't started breeding yet - because of my work schedule, we lamb late in the season and thus breed late in the season.  I am planning breeding schemes - as in, what ewes go with what rams - but we aren't moving sheep around yet.  They are growing wool, flirting with each other through the fence, lambs are growing, and we are feeding them hay.  It is too early to put them out on range - what little forage is left is dry, and it is too dry here to risk electric fencing - and the barley in the pastures is nearly eaten down.

Here are some photos of some of our ewes and lambs.  Some of these may also be on our Santa Cruz Island Sheep page of this website, or will show up there sometime. 


Maybe that is enough for now.  More later.  The last photo, of course, includes a llama - Georgie the guard llama.





Nighttime Phenomenon

posted Oct 12, 2016, 12:23 PM by Lynn Moody   [ updated Oct 12, 2016, 12:26 PM ]

The photo above was taken on August 30, 2016, and the sky is so red because what is left of the sunshine is travelling through smoke from the Chimney and Soberanes Fires.  You have to look closely but if you do, you might be able to make out the Evening Star, Venus, low in the west.

This photo was taken almost a month later, September 26, and the sky still has a little light, and Venus is barely visible in this one too.
I've been experimenting lately with taking photos at night (can you tell?) both with the phone and with a digital camera.  The photo of the moon (a few nights ago, a waxing crescent not quite a quarter moon) is my favorite of several photos I tried that night - there are some branches across the moon which give the photo a little depth.

Did you know that sheep's eyes glow green in the light of a flashlight?  Eerie but pretty.  But I couldn't get a photo, not quite bright enough.  Maybe I'll try again sometime.

Later that same night, I found and photographed, with the help of a flash, this little critter in the chicken yard as I was putting the chickens to bed (that is, shutting the doors to their coops).  It's a kangaroo rat.  Very cute.  Nocturnal, you could guess by the big eyes.  It (he or she?) comes into the chicken yard at night to eat some leftover chicken feed - along with lots of mice.  Wait, I don't mean the kangaroo rat eats mice, I mean the mice also eat leftover chicken feed.



Beehive

posted Oct 5, 2016, 12:49 PM by Lynn Moody

Years ago, when we lived in Atascadero, we had several - 3 or 4, if I remember correctly - beehives.  Jim had kept honeybees before so they mostly were his project.  At the time we only had one each of bee suit and bee hat with veil, so when he managed the hives he would wear those and I would stand off to the side to hand him things.  Several times bees would get tangled in my hair and sting, which is a very sad occasion (for me and most especially for the bees).  Eventually, we got busy with other things, a neighbor was afraid of bees, and that was also about the time the varroa mite moved into our area, and the colonies gradually died off.

When we moved to Blue Oak Canyon Ranch, the bee hives and other paraphernalia moved with us, but no bees of course.  There was (and still is) a colony of feral honeybees living in an oak tree at the east end of the ranch.  Also there was a rather irresponsible beekeeper who would bring lots of hives into the area, about a mile away, every spring.  I say irresponsible because he didn't provide water for his bees so during the hot time of year they would come in huge groups to our livestock waterers, and make it nearly impossible for our sheep and llamas to drink from their own waterers.  Just as we became fed up, after a few years of this, and were ready to lodge a complaint with the county, he stopped bringing his hives. 

During the past few years, we tried 2 or 3 times to introduce purchased nucs (a bred queen plus a small colony of workers) and moved them into one of the hives which we had set up at the west end of the ranch.  I believe the purchased bees were from the Central Valley.  The first time was successful for about a year, stored huge amounts of honey, and we actually did get a little honey from the hive.  But then, the colony mysteriously collapsed.  The other attempts were not successful, and the colonies would collapse after a few months.  We never could find any sign of disease or mites or any other pest, so we had no explanation, other than possibly the bees simply were not adapted to our local conditions. 

Then last spring (2015), we were out at the west end of the ranch and - !! - there were bees busily going in and out of the hive.  The only thing we can think of is that the feral bees from the east end swarmed, and the swarm moved into the hive, all on their own.  So far, they seem fine - survived the winter and our very hot summer - perhaps because the feral bees are adapted to our environment.  We are letting them have their own honey, not intending to harvest any this year, in the hopes that they will continue to do well.
 
If you look really close, you can see the bees as they crawl around at their hive entrance in these three photos.

And we put another hive body (cleaned up of course) with lid and stand nearby, in the hopes that in the spring, if either this colony or the oak-tree colony swarms, the new hive body will attract them.

This time of year, when most flowers have finished blooming, we are concerned that the bees have stored enough honey to see them through the fall and winter.  There are a few winter-blooming plants but not many.  And our winters can be fiercely cold.  Not much is blooming now - the vinegarweed, and tarweed are winding down, there is only a little telegraph weed and mustard blooming, and a big daisy-like yellow composite (an Encelia?) also winding down and going to seed.  We can feed the bees over the winter (as it is, bees come to our birdbaths in the yard and to the hummingbird feeder) and will do this if it seems necessary.



Farm Animals

posted Sep 21, 2016, 10:01 PM by Lynn Moody

Recently we added two German Angora rabbits to our fiber animals.  May they produce lots of soft, beautiful rabbit wool for our use and to offer for purchase as a ranch product!  While contemplating the decision, I was reminded of something by Joel Salatin I read some time ago.   He said that every animal on his farm - as I remember he specified chickens and pigs - had to do two jobs.  With Angora rabbits, fiber production is obviously one of the jobs.  When these two grow up, they most likely will have the "job" of producing more rabbits.  And, I remember from long ago when we raised French Angora rabbits, their manure and discarded bedding makes wonderfully excellent compost as a garden amendment.


Our Santa Cruz Island sheep have multiple jobs as wool producers, grass and brush mowers, and fertilizer makers, also producing more lambs to bolster the population of this very rare breed.  The Navajo-Churro sheep we still have also are wool producers, mowers, and fertilizer manufacturers.



The llamas, like the sheep, produce fiber which is quite nice (if I ever get around to shearing them, and making a fiber tumbler to remove some of the vegetation matter).  They mow grass and brush nearly as well as the sheep, and can reach upward into the trees to defoliate the lower branches.  It all helps reducing fuel of wildfires.  A couple llamas, namely Georgie and Sahne these days, do the additional job of guarding sheep from coyotes.

The chickens produce eggs and the combination of manure, bedding, and feathers makes excellent compost.  Chickens will graze too, helping with weed abatement.  And they eat insects.  One of these days I need to find an artistic use for the beautiful feathers they moult.  I don't write about the turkeys much, but they are grazers too, and insect catchers.  Their eggs are great especially for baking, when we get them before the ravens carry them off.  And their feathers are beautiful.  The main use of the turkeys are for meat, of course, but we have a few old ones left that probably would be tough.




Dogs and cats?  Theoretically the cats are mousers, the dogs guard dogs, but their main function is companionship and entertainment.


Adventures in Technology, Part II

posted Sep 17, 2016, 7:23 PM by Lynn Moody

I think where I left off with Part I, we had installed and re-installed various antennas (antennae?).  The signal amplifier works well and we can use our phones at several places in the house, whereas before we could only phone out and receive phone calls from a certain spot upstairs.  I have found, the stairwell works well and is convenient since I can sit on the steps.  We can text even with one or two bars (spots) and texting is fun.  We have unlimited texting as well as unlimited phone calls, our "data" is limited to 2 GB per month but we have carryover.  Needless to say I am writing this on the laptop using WiFi not on the phone.  The keyboard on the phone is really tiny so couldn't be used for this.  Hence Instagram with short captions, more about Instagram later.

One funny thing, the company that provides our phone etc. service initially got our address incorrect.  When they shipped our phones, they were addressed not only to the wrong address but also to an address that doesn't exist.  Eventually the phones found us, our road has so few residences - mainly large ranches each with only one or two homes - FedEx knows where we live, and we got them.  I called the company, and was assured the address was corrected.  First bill arrived sent to the nonexistent address.  Called again.  Assured the correction was made.  Second bill arrived, sent to the same nonexistent address.  Called again.  Assured the correction was made.  Waiting for the third bill or other correspondence.  Fortunately the post office also knows where we live.  Would hate to have our credit rating ruined because of silliness.

We have Instagram, follow us! at @blueoakcanyonranch.  I put our website on the Instagram profile but haven't figured out how to put the little camera icon on our website home page.  Maybe later.

Today, for a short time, my smart phone told me we had no service.  The signal amplifier was fine, on, all lights green except the first light which was blinking red and green and that doesn't, we have been told, matter as that is the light for WiFi which we have a satellite dish for internet access.  Anyway, the fault didn't seem to be in our part of the system and pretty soon service returned.

O my blog, how I've neglected you!  This Instagram thing is so easy, once I remember to carry my smart phone with me everywhere and take photos with it.  I've noticed, lots of folks USE Instagram AS their blog, with wonderful photos and long beautiful captions.  Entirely appropriate.  I hope to keep my captions short, since I have a blog for longer essays and messages.  Such as this. 

The c key on my laptop is sticky.

Will try to write more interesting blogs, with photos and videos of real stuff, such as sheep and chickens and sunsets.

Combining Flocks and Moving Rams

posted Sep 5, 2016, 4:45 PM by Lynn Moody

This past Sunday morning, we (finally) got around to combining the Santa Cruz Island ewes and lambs with the rest of our mixed flocks of unbred Santa Cruz Island ewes and wether and the Navajo-Churro ewes and wether.  We had three reasons for doing this - one was, it was time to incorporate this year's lambs with the rest of the larger flock, to move them all into a larger field with some remaining standing barley for them to graze/browse, and the third reason is that the rams born in 2015 are due to be sheared this weekend, since we didn't shear them in the spring, and we need to pen them up ahead of time in the catch pen which is contiguous with the shearing shed.  The two videos below show the ewes and lambs combining with the other sheep.  You will be able to see there is a little head-butting with the ewes as they re-acquaint themselves with each other and re-figure out the pecking order.  No ewes butted the lambs.  Georgie the brown llama moved into this field with them.

DSCF4217.AVI


DSCF4218.AVI


The video below this shows the ten yearling lambs - Peabody and his cohort - getting to know their new field.  It isn't actually new to them, as this is the field where they were when they were lambs, before weaning.  Sahne the white llama moved into this field with them, of course.

DSCF4219.AVI

Santa Cruz Island Wool Makes Its Day

posted Sep 4, 2016, 11:17 AM by Lynn Moody   [ updated Sep 5, 2016, 4:34 PM ]

Almost as an afterthought, I entered a Santa Cruz Island fleece in the Monterey County Fair Wool Show - as I have several times in the past.  This time I entered Lucia's fleece from our 2016 spring shearing, as it seemed very nice, clean, with a longer-than-typical staple length.  We weren't able to attend the wool judging in August due to a previous commitment.  So this past Friday we went to the Monterey County Fair to see how the fleece, and the three skeins of yarn I also entered, did.  Much to our delight, the fleece won first place in the Breeds division, "Other" class, and won Reserve Champion for its division!  It was displayed prominently and wonderfully, and I think will do a lot to promote the Santa Cruz Island sheep breed and their wool.

The judge was very kind, rated the fleece Excellent on everything (Cleanliness, Weight, Uniformity of Crimp, Strength, Character of Fleece, and Color) except Staple Length (rated it Good for that), and wrote "dreamy, fine, soft, very little waste" on the scorecard.

So, kudos to Lucia for growing the fleece, to Jim for shearing, and to me for skirting and entering the fleece into the competition.
There is Lucia's fleece in the top photo above, with ribbons, and there I am grinning like an idiot next to the fleece (and the other champions), with the finger of the nice lady organizer of the wool show in the foreground.

On Monday - tomorrow! - the fleeces are auctioned off.  If no one buys ours, I will bring it home and decide what to do, if it sells at auction, fine!

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