Raising Finnish Landrace, Cotswold, Border Leicester, and Romeldales, in the Heart of Illinois, as well as working with rescue llamas.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Creative sheltering- make your own sheep shelters (test model #1)

     BRR! 18+ inches of snow and already several days -0*f this winter and winter is only a few days old!  A wonderful neighbor got out of cows a while ago, and has gone thru their barn and gifted us with things that help our operation that they no longer need.  This past summer they gave us 2 old round hay bale feeders for cows. We really needed shelter for our flerd (sheep flock + cow herd) that would not be up close to the barn in the cold winter months so we decided to use the bale feeders to meet the need. All summer we looked, we thought, we argued, then thought and looked some more about how we could turn those round bale feeders into useful shelters. We would walk away and come back to them just to sit and stare at them and scratch our heads and say "humph!" then walk away again. Thankfully, we got clever on one of those last warm days in November, the pumpkin pie muse hit and the shelters were built in just a few hours. Below are the photos of the huts while we were in the process of making them and the resulting sheep huts.

Step one: We cut out one bar that ordinarily keeps the cows from walking into the feeder and getting trapped in a round bale.
Step two: Buy a large heavy duty tarp/s that will go around the circumference of your bale feeder. We folded our tarps over the top of the bale feeder and overlapped the ends of the tarps by several feet to add some durability on the seam.

Step three:  We used 4"X4"  landscaping timbers as rafters.We will more than likely add crossbeams next summer, not because the the timbers are straining under the snow but simply to add it as prevention for strain. If we get a  larger snow fall we will simply have to go out and clean off the tops if the beams show stress this winter,.
 Step four: Then we attached plywood and covered the top in another tarp to protect the top from the winter weather.  The top can be further attached to the bale feeder using guide wires similar to the ones used as guide wires for keeping young trees growing straight.
 An interior view. You can see that there is the very important ventilation along the top and along the bottom when there isn't a layer of snow.

The calves and sheep decided to take us up on our offer of shelter! The sheep and calves pile in every night just after dusk and their dinner. Every morning they come out just as the sun begins to rise. I would love to get a photo of all of them inside together but I doubt they would let me sneak up on them without feeling the need to come begging for scratches and handouts and thus ruin the photo. I wonder if the cows are using the sheep for pillows or vice versa!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

AFTER the Fun

     Well, as with everyday on the farm there is work to be done, even on holidays!! For us, as with most farmers it is a labor of love, a lifestyle choice that we made and we are happy to live. A decision which some folks just don't get. After our relaxing day at the Peoria Area Rabbit Breeders Association show last month we figured since there were so many rabbits out of their holes, we might as well deep clean the rabbitry! I am always popular (not) with the family when I shift into rabbitry cleaning mode!!!

     We rearranged for the new additions because after a bad experience a while back we now quarantine all incoming rabbits. Then we burned and scrubbed all occupied holes. For cage burning, I use a propane powered weed burner to burn any fleece that sticks to the cage. I simply slowly wave the burner over the entire cage, pan supports, and legs. I go extra slow over favorite spots of the bunnies, because it seems every bunny has a favorite for certain things. The burning sterilizes the cages and keeps the bunnies who have hanging resting shelves in their holes from building up fleece on the support wires.  I let the cages cool then reinstall feeders, waters, and resting boards all of which have been soaked for at least 5 minutes in bleach water (10:1), rinsed, then soaked in fresh clear well water for at least 10 minutes, then dried.  Finally rabbits are returned to their clean homes. The result a nice clean tidy healthy, and a much better organized rabbitry.

Peoria Area Rabbit Breeders Association Fall 2010 Show

We were at the Peoria Area Rabbit Breeders Association show fall 2010 show a couple weeks ago. A very relaxing enjoyable day. A smaller show than it normally is, probably due to being so close to ARBA nationals and Thanksgiving.  Our French Angoras and Satins did well. Our American Fuzzy Lop senior buck Duke, got a DQ for being heavy. Poor Duke, he is just so big in terms of what is under the fleece.  Yet, he has such a perfect massive head.
The surprise win of the day for us was our French Angora BOB to Snowflake, our Chocolate Pearl brood doe. I have given her a well earned rest from kits this fall and her fleece has really come into it's own. Snowflake is talented in the nestbox, she regularly gives us huge litters, the last was 11, and tends her children very diligently.
French Angora BOS went to Noah, our broken Blue cream tort buck. Noah is just barely 7 months, but has a lot of promise both on the table and in fleece production. He will be 1 of our our long term main bucks, bringing broken genetics into our rabbitry.

In the main show and second show(satins):

BOV to Chip, our Siamese satin senior buck. Chip is one huge fellow and  given the judges comments on how much he liked Chip's massive body type could have gone further if his coat was in better condition, he was shedding the last of his summer coat however didn't look his best. However, Chip is such a great buck and enjoyable to be around.
BOSV to Babe, our new Siamese satin 6-8 doe,  New to us she has a lot of promise!!
 Joining us on our way home:  Babe and  Chocolate, another extremely promising a Siamese Satin Doe, 6-8, but just barely 6.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


     Well, it has definitely gotten cold enough for slippers, at least at our house as we haven't turned on the furnace yet, most of the folks we know have. Glutton for punishment, no, this is an effort to stay healthier this year. It seems when we keep the house cooler but not frigid we stay healthier, having had way more than our share of illnesses last year, we all agreed to practice a little extra prevention this year. So neurotic hand washing and bundling up in layers is here to stay for us until warm weather comes again. This means sweaters and slippers all around. And while we are going thru so much soap while washing our hands we might as well felt something!

      I have seen several really cute pairs of felted slippers lately. Bootie style, Mary Jane style, clog style, knitted, crocheted, store bought felt and sewn. Being up for the challenge, I have decided to attempt to felt some slippers. Being a wimp and a Mom, I am going for the smallest feet in the house. This way the process is finishable in a reasonable amount of time and I can feel free to trash it and start over again if needed without the guilt of throwing away too much fiber.

Grape Kool Aid dyed wool  after a trip thru our drum carder.

      Step one, get reacquainted with my drum carder, an old Clemes and Clemes that my sweet husband bought me last year on e-bay. It is amazing how the process of creating has seasons just like the weather. Drum carding or hand carding is just not something that appeals to me in warm weather so the drum carder has been gathering dust for a couple months. That being said, dyeing is something that I love to do in warm weather, so here I am with wool dyed great colors awaiting fall and winter projects. Yippee!

  DUM DA DUM DUM!!!  Did I mention it was a hand crank drum carder? Did I mention the pile of wool and that usually run the wool through a minimum of 3 times each batch? I now have a one arm exercise program. Step one is going to take awhile!

3 Koolaid dyes batts done! In front, Tropical Punch with some
 undyed, Orange, and Grape in back.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Noises in the night!

      So much to do, so much to do! Cold weather is coming soon!  It has been so calm, the weather has been unusually great, dry without our ususal October winds and rains. The sheep and cows are trimming the pastures down for their last rotation thru the pastures of the year. When the pasture rotatations move into our lake pasture we always bring the flock up to the barn paddocks at night because of the threat of unwanted wildlife moving thru seeking water to drink.  However, we usually do not bring the flock up while they graze in the other pastures as the pastures are somewhat close to the house and usually predator free, we have counted on the cows to run off predators from the flock, until the past several weeks. I have separated the cows from the sheep so that the cows can graze down a rougher area that really needs to get eaten and tromped down. That was when the trouble began.

     Coyotes have made their voices known. In fact, they have even put in several appearances. Now being wild animals you would think they should be shy, not the coyotes here. They are speaking loud and clear, and hungry like as they circle the farm and run thru the front yard not 200 yards from the house, inside the fence! The entire household was up save for the littlest one, who blessedly slept thru it all.

The dog was sent out to bark and earn his keep. He dutifully kept up his end of the bargain by barking up a ruckus until he heard, maybe saw, how close those coyotes were... then he ran top speed back to the deck and barked from there. Admittedly, any barking he does helps, as it echoes throughout the valley and sounds like several dogs not just one, but this time, the barking was not deterring. So the tallest humans began yelling out the windows at our nocturnal visitors. Now, I don't know about you but "Shoo!" "Go away!" just don't seem like effective words to use on predators.  To no one's surprise they weren't very effective but between the tall humans, barking dog, and the ramming ram, the coyotes left They came back about an hour later but weren't as interested in the crazy place as before. Being who we are we went to the pastures twice that night to make sure the flock was okay.  Happily, all were okay, but  the humans sure weren't the next morning.

 So the debate has begun. Guardian animal?  Clearly, the cows have been protecting the sheep and miss them. Daily they try to graze as close together as possible on opposites sides of the fence in separate pastures.  However, after winter the cows will return to the big pasture and the sheep will resume rotations. So a guard animal is needed. Llama? guard dog? donkey? Bells on the sheep?  The research has begun!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall Calm

After the frenzy of summer 2010 we have finally gotten back into the swing of normal life here on the farm. So perhaps I can focus on the site more. I am planning on posting Finn sheep fleeces and getting pictures of the French angoras up as soon as the new computer gets fully set up, hopefully this week.   Please be patient with me or if you really need info, email

See you soon!

Friday, August 20, 2010

 We have discovered the wonderful world of felting this summer. All it took was getting the Michigan Sheep and wool festival catalog in the mail and reading the classes offered to whet our appetite for felting. Our first adventure was wet felting a pair of light blue and white place mats for my mom for her birthday to match my folks newly painted kitchen.  While wet felting is truly good clean fun, given the fact that it involves layers of clean carded wool, hot water, soap, and lots of rubbing, it was not until about 6 weeks ago that we fell in head over heels crazy in love with felting. You see, a month and a half ago we discovered needle felting!  I had heard of needle felting, I had seen some projects finished by others and stood in appropriate awe of these folks' talent.  But I had never seen it done until a YouTube video landed in my lap. It just looked so so easy, I thought, "why not give it a try?" Off to Hobby Lobby we went for 4h project supplies and maybe it was a coincidence that I would up in the needle felting aisle, maybe not.  After the trip to Hobby Lobby, I played around with the needle felting tools mostly I created bugs and flowers on to fabric. I discovered that needle felting is a most forgiving art! If you don't like how it looks, pull it off and start over; no harm, no foul. Since that first experiment, I have found needle felting to a very stress relieving art. I am thinking the bug needle feltings may turn into a patchwork pillow after I produce a few more bugs.

Well, along came morning and as with anything one hopes one's children can achieve more than ones' self. WOW, did they!  All of our kids showed an interest in needle felting immediately.  They asked if they could needle felt something for the 4h fair.  Our eldest son got the rest of his projects done in time to play around with the needle felting. To the right is what he submitted to 4h visual arts fiber category. The tree is Finnsheep fleece from a black Finn, the green and blue is black Blue-faced Leicester overdyed, all the leaves are koolaid dyed Polypay fleece, the white cloud is white Finn sheep, the grey stones are natural colored Shetland, and the sheep is from our sweet ole ewe rose, a Corridale cross.  He won first place, a superior, an original design, best of class division, class champion, and was nominated to take it to state and did well with the project there as well. Not bad for the first time he picked up the tool.  

Friday, August 6, 2010


Hello & Welcome to Walnut Springs Farm! We are a small family farm dedicated to honoring God in all we do both on and off the farm.  This site is our quest to share the treasured itinerary of our shepherding of both our human flock and sheep. We raise registered Finnish Landrace sheep in the heart of Illinois.  We also have registered Shetland,  registered Border Leicester, and  registered Cotswold sheep but we shall save those for other posts.

The Finnsheep is a fascinating breed! They originate from Finland and are a part of the "northern rat tail" breeds of sheep. This group also includes the Shetland, Romanov, and Icelandic breeds all are thought to have descended from the wild mouflon sheep.

Why Finnsheep when there are so many other sheep out there?  The answer... family vote. Many breeds were kicked out of by sheer size. We wanted a smaller sheep, so we could all handle them without fear.  This may have been a reaction to years of large cows living here.  We researched different breeds of sheep that might fit best for us. We traveled the internet and the sheep shows.  We bought wool from each breed, I handspun each, and we all touched and wore the samples as bracelets and necklaces to see if any was something we wanted to wear against our skin. We asked other people which of these is softer to you? Great fiber is our primary goal here at Walnut Springs Farm and Finnsheep have phenomenal wool! Finnsheep wool is soft with a light luster and super loft. Along with delightful wool, Finnsheep can have litters of up to 8 lambs at a time. The family vote was unanimous, Finn sheep for us!

Check out our the links on our breed page for further information on Finnish Landrace Sheep, or our sheep for sale page.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Breed Info

Our Sheep
I will be slowly adding links for information as I find them. I have a few more to add but I have run out of time tonight.
Finnish Landrace
Info on the Finnish Landrace sheep breed  Go to the bottom of the page


Border Leicester


Our Rabbits
French Angora
American Fuzzy Lops