Categories
Finnsheep

April Product of the Month

Since the sheep will be lambing by the end of this week, we are featuring our Finnsheep yarn and roving for April!

Finnsheep wool is incredibly soft and for most people can be worn next to the skin. The Finnsheep breed has a wide range of colors and patterns. Our flock has sheep with white, brown, gray/silver, and black wool. Many Finnsheep also have spots or other patterns. Their wool is excellent for spinning, felting, knitting, crocheting, or just about any fiber arts project that requires wool! It also takes dye well.

Here are a few interesting facts about Finnsheep from the Finnsheep Breeders Association website: “Renowned as prolific breeders producing multiple births, the Finnsheep regulary has triplets and quadruplets. Our history records show several litters of octuplets and septuplets. It is not uncommon for ewe lambs, twelve months of age, to have twins and triplets. Finnsheep are excellent mothers with plentiful milk for the large litters. Finn wool has an unmistakably soft handle and luster.  Fleeces average 4-6 lbs with 3-6” staple and a micron count of 24 to 31 (50’s spinning count). They exhibit greater foraging ability, enjoying leaves and brush as much as cultivated pasture.”

We love the personalities and friendly dispositions of our Finns. They are easy lambers, excellent mothers, and have beautiful wool. When deciding if we wanted to focus on the Finnsheep or hair flock, the Finns were an easy choise for us. I can easily lamb them out on my own, the rams aren’t aggressive, and they are a good size for me to handle. Plus the wool gives us more options that just raising and selling them for meat.

Currently, in our online store, we have a few colors of roving. We have a variety of browns and a few skeins of white yarn left. As our April Product of the Month, all our roving and yarn is 10% off with the code featuredproduct24 at checkout. I even found a few skeins of yarn I had set back and added them to the store.

Categories
Agriculture Finnsheep Goats Hair sheep Livestock Sheep Winter

Winter Chores

Winter finally showed up this week with cold, snowy, windy weather. Before this week, we’ve had a few cold days and some light snow but nothing too bad. This week has been and next will be extremely cold with highs anywhere from -2 to low teens. The windchills though are dangerously low at -25ish. I want to share how we prepare our livestock for the winter weather. Preparing for winter begins towards the end of Fall before the first hard freeze.

The first thing is making sure that everyone has a shelter from the north wind. The Finnsheep flock (and any smaller or older hair sheep) has access to the old limestone barn. It is built into a hill and on the south side of our shed so it is pretty warm. The goats are all in smaller pens that have south-facing three-sided sheds in them. Each of these sheds has round bales stacked behind them during the winter. This provides an amazing amount of warmth in the sheds. Goats hate the cold weather and these sheds are the warmest we have when the bales are on the north side of them.

The hair sheep flock also has a south-facing three-sided shed in their paddock as well as access to a few other small sheds. Our chickens and ducks are in a large coop and have protection from the wind as well. Lane is also very good about giving the chickens warm water a couple of times a day. Chickens and ducks are amazingly resilient when it comes to the cold weather as long as they can get out of the wind.

Every tank has a heater in it to keep the water from freezing. They work great but a thin layer of ice will sometimes still form on the water when it gets to the single-digit temps. A thin layer of ice is still much better than trying to break through thick ice several times a day! We do not have automatic water tanks on our farm (hopefully someday!) so for now we have to drain the hose every time we use it. If it doesn’t get drained or too much water is sitting at the end of it, the hose has to come into the house and sit in the shower until it thaws….not fun!

During the winter, we feed brome hay to all the sheep, goats, and horses. When it is colder than usual they all get extra hay. The extra hay helps their rumens to generate more body heat. All horses and Finnsheep receive grain and the goats get some alfalfa pellets. Most of the time the hair sheep are very hardy and don’t need the extra calories.

The Finns need the extra calories from grain when they are pregnant because they have such high rates of multiples. Last year, we had a set of healthy quads and several sets of triplets and attribute their health to adding grain to their diet in the winter when they are bred. We learned the hard way a couple of years ago that bred Finns need extra calories to grow all those healthy lambs. Some day, I will share more about the lessons we have learned going from hair sheep to Finns.

There are a few animals here that love the cold. The livestock guardian dogs are built for this weather. They have access to shelter but will rarely use it. Snow days are their favorite days and will spend a lot of time running, digging, chasing, and playing when it’s this cold out. We also offer them extra food in the winter.

Winter is not my favorite because I hate putting on all of the layers to go outside. Once we get out, it’s usually not too bad unless the wind is blowing hard that day. We are moving fast enough, that I am usually sweating by the time we finish everything. This week, the 20-40 mph wind does make your face hurt.

Chores are harder in the winter and require more work on our part. However, if I am being completely honest I don’t mind them that much because it forces me to get outside when I would otherwise not go out willingly. The physical labor of loading and unloading small square bales of hay multiple times a day helps to keep me strong. Plus, I know that right around the corner is springtime. And with spring comes my favorite season on the ranch, kidding and lambing!

Categories
Finnsheep Goats Hair sheep Sheep Spring

Spring

Everything outside feels so alive and vibrant this time of year! I love watching the world wake up after winter. There are so many things I want to do outside right now since it is so nice. It is hard for me to focus and complete one task before moving on to another one tempting me when there are so many things to do.

Colton was very excited that the goat kid numbers ended up being 4 doelings and 3 bucks. One doe still hasn’t kidded that should have. She is starting to look like she might be bred so I am hoping the buck just bred her late.

We are currently having the slowest start to lambing that we have ever had. It is so frustrating! They were due to start on May 4, but so far just over half are done lambing. We have had more ewe lambs so far too! The sheep flock was culled pretty hard last fall because we finally decided exactly what our goal was for it so now we will rebuilding our numbers. All of the ewe lambs will make that process go faster!

The first ewe to lamb seems to always be a Finn. This year was no different. Ewe 049 gave us triplets, 2 ewe lambs, and 1 ram lamb! My favorite Finn ewe also had triplets and all 3 are ewe lambs! They are the prettiest little brown lambs. We’ve even had a set of quads! This is the first time we have had a set of quads (3 ewes & 1 ram) all survive. The smallest one is getting a bottle twice a day. Having a bottle lamb makes Kinzie very happy!

Four hair ewes have lambed so far with singles. All of them have been first-time mamas and have done a great job of taking care of their babies. The bonus is that all 4 are ewe lambs!

The shearer came a few weeks ago. Shearing day is always exciting and a little nerve-wracking for me. Raising wool sheep is still new enough that I am working to figure out the correct management program for them, especially in regard to their feed. The hair sheep do not need any grain and do just fine condition-wise through the winter and pregnancy. Our Finnsheep however, seem to need grain through pregnancy. After shearing this year, I was very pleased with how the Finnsheep ewes looked. All of them are in much better condition than in previous years so I think I have found the right feed combination for them.

Most of the wool seems to be nice too. Of course, a few of them appear to really like the burr patches which makes skirting their fleeces difficult! I am working my way through the fleeces so they can be delivered to the fiber mill for processing. Working through the wool helps to give me an idea of which ram I want to keep based on the types of wool his lambs are producing. I now have a better plan for who to keep for this fall’s breeding season.

The garden and flower beds are calling my name. I usually wait until around Mother’s Day to plant most things because this is Kansas and the weather can be crazy. I do have a few things planted but will be working to get most planted over the next couple of weeks. My Iris’ are beautiful this year. While at Home Depot last weekend, I picked up a few flowers to add to a flower bed I am redoing. I love the hot pink daisies and the coreopsis. The most exciting garden-related thing we have done is finally put in an orchard. I have 4 peach trees, 3 apple trees, and 2 pear trees! I am so happy about our little orchard!

The kids and I have been working to add manure from the barns to each bed so it is taking us longer to get everything prepared. It was definitely time to give all the beds a boost and the barns need cleaning out.

We wrapped up our bookwork for homeschool at the end of April. The kids learn so much outside this time of year between helping with the livestock, working in the garden, mowing/trimming for their great-grandma and at our house, identifying plants coming up, taking care of pastures, etc.

We have been blessed with rain the last few weeks. Our pond was very close to being completely dry and now it is overflowing. The vibrant green of the world that follows rain always amazes me. The grass in our pastures was struggling but is already starting to grow nicely. The sheep want to be put out to grass so bad but there just hasn’t been enough yet. They are tired of being fed hay!

I hope you are having a good spring as well and have a chance to enjoy this time of year outside!

Categories
Agriculture Finnsheep Sheep

Finnsheep & Why We Love Them

We had raised hair sheep for several years and Hailey had shown club lambs in 4-H since she was 9 years old when I decided that it was a good time to expand our flock by adding a wool breed. Not just any wool breed though. They had to be soft, not make me itch (club lamb wool makes me itch), be friendly, easy to handle, have wool that could be made into yarn (at the time the only fiber art I did was crochet), and have at least twins when lambing.

After much research and talking with not only breeders but also people much more involved in the fiber arts world than I was, we decided on Finnsheep. Here is a brief synopsis of the breed from http://finnsheep.org: “Finnsheep are a multi-purpose breed. In their native Finland, where they are known as Finnish Landrace Sheep, they are raised for meat, wool and pelts. In the United States, their primary use has been in cross-breeding programs to increase the lambing percentage of commercial flocks. Recently, Finnsheep have been discovered by American handspinners for the color, luster and soft hand of their wool. An emerging market is the use of Finnsheep to produce lean meat favored by “ethnic” populations. Finnsheep are friendly, docile and easy keepers producing vigorous lambs that are up and nursing within minutes.”

In July 2020, we bought 11 head of Finnsheep from a farm in Missouri. They were beautiful, soft, friendly girls. It didn’t take long for us (okay just me) to fall in love with them.

So what makes Finnsheep the perfect sheep for us? Mostly their personalities but also the versatility of their wool which was the reason we chose them. The wool can be in a wide range of colors and patterns. It makes beautiful yarns and roving that can be used for knitting, crocheting, weaving, or felting. The wool is fine enough that it can be worn next to the skin and is strong enough to be used in garments and blankets.

Another positive was that if we wanted it to, our flock could expand rather quickly because they are known for being one of the most prolific breeds in the world. They tend to lamb in litters and can have up to 9 at a time however, 3-4 lambs are most common. We were hoping to expand the flock rather quickly but what we didn’t realize is that Finnsheep are not quite as easy to raise as Hair Sheep. We have had to learn how to manage parasites very differently from the hair sheep. The lambs also need a lot more babysitting and checking to make sure they are getting enough milk since there are more born to each ewe.

As a result, we have had to reexamine some of our management systems. This isn’t a bad thing other than we lost a lot of the lambs and some ewes the first two years while learning which management practices we needed to change. We have made several adjustments this year and I am optimistic that we will have a better success rate this spring.

For us, and for the expansion of our farm business, Finnsheep are the perfect fit. They give us a marketable product not only in their wool but also in the meat. I can use the wool for my own fiber arts, crocheting, and my newest obsession, needle felting. And hopefully, after we get all of the management kinks worked out, double or triple our flock this year. I am optimistic that this lambing will be much more successful than the last two have been!

If you are looking for any Finnsheep yarn or roving for your fiber arts projects you will find it here in our Ranch Store.

Categories
Agriculture Bees Family Finnsheep Goat Milk Lotion Goat Milk Soap Goats Homeschool Sheep

Highlights of the Year

It has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post. It’s crazy how fast time goes. Life has been busy like normal and we’ve had the usual changes that happen as the seasons go by. I thought an update was long overdue so here it is!

Last summer we had our first litter of livestock guardian puppies. We ended up keeping two of them – Jayde and Maizie. Jayde is an excellent lgd however, Maizie prefers to lay around near the house. Unfortunately, we lost our male and had to buy a new one this summer. Chief is the sweetest, softest puppy ever. He is growing so fast and is just as big as the other dogs even though he’s only 6 months old!

We had our second crop of Finnsheep lambs this spring shortly after our second shearing. Parasites have been a struggle this year so we are working on building a more resilient flock. The differences in hardiness between our hair sheep and Finnsheep are still so interesting. I am very pleased with the quality of our lambs and their fleeces though. It is so hard to be patient for next spring when we finally shear the lambs!

Two of our beehives survived the winter and we will be harvesting the honey soon! The hives have very different personalities. One is calm and quite while the other will swarm and chase you as soon as you open their box! Needless to say, I don’t open their hive without my full bee suit on.

The garden is currently in desperate need of attention, mostly the tomatoes. I am planning to work on that this week. We really enjoyed the salsa I canned last summer so I need to get some done for this year. Both my flower beds and vegetable garden seemed to struggle this year. It seemed to be a combination of weather, bugs, and naughty dogs that kept everything from growing well.

Last spring, Lance and I bought an old building in town that had most recently been a restaurant. We are currently renovating it into a venue and airbnb. I love the building and all of the character and quirks that come with a building built in 1909. It has a room that is perfect for me to use as a studio for our Ranch Store. I have loved having more room to make and store all of our products. Lance and our oldest son, Cody, have done all of the renovations so far. I am always amazed at their knowledge, ability, and work ethic.

Our oldest daughter, Hailey, graduated from high school in May. I am still processing how she is already an adult and not a little girl. She is enjoying college which makes it a little easier that she is no longer living at home full time.

I am still making our Goat Milk Soap and Lotion. We only had one doeling born this year which was really disappointing for Colton. She was named Marshmallow because she is the color of hot chocolate and has a white spot on top of her head like a marshmallow. He is hoping for more girls than boys next year! Colton bought a new buck this year. His goal with a new buck is to improve the quality of his goats and add in some color variety.

The younger three kids and I started our third year of homeschooling in August. After using a few different curriculums the last couple of years, we felt like we had a good idea of what works for us, so we have used the mix and match approach to curriculum this year. I will be sharing more about our homeschool in a later post.

Over the summer, we went to several horse shows. The kids have improved so much in their riding skills. The circuit we do is great for all ages to ride in. Three generations of our family are currently riding. The kids love competing against dad and grandpa!

Since we bought the building we decided to host a fiber festival! The first annual Fiber Flurry will be held November 4-5 at Sikes Venue in Leonardville, KS. There aren’t any other fiber festivals in our area so we are hoping to have a good response. If you live nearish to us, we hope you will come either as a vendor or to check it out!

I think that wraps up the highlights from the year. My plan is to attempt to write more regularly and send out a newsletter one time a month as well. If there is anything you would like to hear about please let me know in the comments!

Categories
Finnsheep Sheep

Finnsheep Wool Products Now Available!

Our wool has been processed and added to our online store and Etsy shop! This has been over a year in the making and to say that we are excited is an understatement! Learning the differences between the Finnsheep and our hair sheep, while learning to manage for those differences has been a learning experience.

We are excited to share that we have yarn and roving available for your fall and winter fiber projects! Finnsheep fiber is beautifully soft and most people would consider it suitable for next to skin wear. For more information about Finnsheep fiber and see each listing, you can visit our store at https://14handsranchks.com/product-category/finnsheep-yarn-roving/

I wanted to share a few photos of the year long process it has been to get from purchasing our first Finnsheep flock to being able to offer our own line of Finnsheep wool products.

all the natural colors of our yarn
All the natural colors of our yarn
Finnsheep in the pasture
Our sheep all live on pasture or hay only the entire time they are in our care.
shearing a brown ewe
We had the sheep sheared in March. You typically want to shear approximately one month before lambing.
brown fleece on the ewe
Brown fleece on the ewe.
Finnsheep ewe and three lambs
Finnsheep ewe and three lambs.
sheared fleece
Sheared fleece
Finnsheep in the pasture
Finnsheep in the pasture
Jada and a brown Finnsheep ewe
Jada and a brown Finnsheep ewe
brown roving
Brown roving
Grey roving
Grey roving

Categories
Agriculture Fall Finnsheep Goats Hair sheep Livestock Projects Sheep Uncategorized Winter

Fall/Early Winter Update

I have sat down several times to update everyone about what we have been up to this past fall but wasn’t ever able to get this post finished. Well, here we are in the middle of January and I finally have an update for you! This update will be told in photos because that’s the only way I can remember what we have all done!

I plan to do more regular updates this year to help everyone follow along with what we do. This will also allow us to better share our story with you.

*Lotion will be restocked on Friday! There will also be new lotion scents and lip balm added soon!

We are so grateful to all of our customers who supported us this past holiday season and we look forward to serving you in 2021!

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The pond in September. It has been dry this fall and the pond was already getting low. It is a couple of feet lower now.

We’ve had two litters of piglets this fall.

It was warm enough in September and October that Colton had to keep the pigs mud hole filled with water. They love to lay in it when it’s hot outside.

The sheep & goats do an excellent job of cleaning up poison ivy and other unwanted plants under the trees along our dam.

The goats always prefer to eat the weeds, trees, or poison ivy before the grass.

It doesn’t seem to matter if its human or animal mama’s – they just can’t eat or drink in peace!

Some of the fungus we found in an old tree stump during one of our nature studies.

I dried some marigolds and pokeberries for dying yarn later. If anyone has recommendations on books to read about naturally dying wool please share them with me! The only book I have right now is Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes

We also made a marigold garland. It was pretty above the kitchen sink.

Goat Milk Lotion was added to the store in November! It will be restocked on Friday (1/15/21).

Hailey ran at State Cross Country. Hailey and Cody both had a great season in high school cross country. In addition to helping with the farm and being a full-time independent insurance agent, Lance is the head cross country coach for our local high school. He is also an assistant track coach in the spring. Yes – we are busy!

We started bale grazing November 1st. I will be sharing a post about bale grazing and what we are learning about regenerative agriculture in a later post.

Lane does an excellent job of caring for his chickens and ducks.

This girl is so sweet. She always wants a chin scratch. Finnsheep were definitely the right choice for our family.

I can’t wait to shear the sheep this coming spring and see what we can have done with all of the fiber! I’m hoping to have combed top as well as yarn made this year.

I will never tire of watch a Kansas Sunset. The top of our hill is the perfect spot to watch it.

Due to a freak accident, we had to buy a new Finnsheep ram. Lance and I traveled to Iowa to purchase one the day after Thanksgiving. He is gorgeous, both in confirmation and fleece. It will be fun to see what kind of lambs we get in the spring.

Isn’t he lovely?!?

The second litter of piglets – they are now weaned and available for purchase as feeder pigs. Just contact us if you are interested in purchasing one!

Lane’s chickens and ducks have started laying eggs. I have yet to capture a good photo of the blueish/green eggs.

I made Hailey pose for a picture after we finished putting straw out in the barns in November.

The Chicken Palace received a new sign and barn light! When it warms up the doors will also be painted.

We were blessed to be able to attend a couple of different vendor days locally. Our new lip balm will be added to the store within the next couple of weeks.

Very grateful that Lance can usually take my ideas and make it a reality when it comes to building things. I showed him a picture of a display shelf and tried to explain how I wanted to change it a little. Somehow he was able to figure out what I wanted and made these great little shelves!

At least one Saturday a month (more if cold weather is on the way) is spent replenishing straw in all of the barns. Even Kinzie helps put new straw out.

The rams were pulled out of the ewe flocks this past weekend. They didn’t want to get along at first (hormones….) so they got to spend a couple of days in a very tiny space. This allows them time to get acquainted but without the fighting. If we didn’t put them in this small pen, they would have just spent hours or days backing up to get a running start and head butting each other. We use the small pen to keep them from hurting each other.

I’ve also been crocheting in the evenings! This is a wool/acrylic blend yarn (Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick Yarn(3-Pack) Hudson Bay 640-610). I love the variegated colors and this simple, single stitch I’m using on this afghan really shows the color pattern nicely. I spent most of November and December crocheting a shawl to give as a Christmas gift to someone.

We hope you all have a wonderful and blessed 2021! Thank you for being a part of 14 Hands Ranch.

~Jada

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.