Maine Fiber Frolic 2017 Poster
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what’s been happening

Just before shearing last year, I gave up on this blog Farm Journal.  Getting photos into posts was such a pain in the neck that posting just wasn’t fun at all.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who noticed because the good folks at WordPress have streamlined the process.  I’m giving it another try…

The ewes get to eat indoors the day after shearing.

Shearing in March went off without a hitch.  Thanks to all who came to help out, we zipped right through the woolies and then enjoyed some good food and down time together.

In early April, our first batch of meat birds arrived and then, after 2 lambless years, we welcomed lambs to the farm.  We’d really missed all that cuteness.

Candice bonding with her newborn lambs.

Our ewes did a great job and gave us tons of cuteness but one of the lambs suffered a broken leg at 3 days old and ended up in the house with us for 4 weeks.  By the end of the first week, Margaret (she got a name when she visited my spinning group) was leaping out of her playpen…cast and all. There was no containing her!  Eventually, we let her have the run of the house (wearing a diaper) and she would go into her playpen when we went to bed.  She learned to eat hay in our living room…I don’t recommend that!  Skye tolerated her and Gemma was happy to have a playmate…the cats mostly avoided her.

Little Margaret's big day out...no more cast! YAY!

Today she’s part of the flock but she’s the first to greet us at the gate and is quite the character.

The critter count was growing… piglets arrived in May.  We parked them in the shearing pen where they had lots of bedding to root in and could learn about fences.

The piglets get acquainted with their nipple waterer.

Throughout the Spring months more meat birds arrived in batches of 50 and 75.  We’ve become big fans of the slower growing old-style birds that thrive on pasture.

In June we were running everyday to stay ahead of the grass.  There was so much of it that we were moving the sheep every couple of days sometimes.

After the winter, there's always fence to be fixed and we're managing to stay just ahead of the sheep!

We could almost see the lambs growing if they stood in one place long enough!

We had fun at the Maine Fiber Frolic weekend…always great to see old friends and meet new ones!  The piglets outgrew their pen and moved into the woods where they have tons of space to roam and root and wallow and play.

Once they were well muddied up, they investigated their new digs.

We joined a budding Farmers Market right here in Bristol so for the rest of the summer, I was easy to find every Saturday morning.  It turned out to be lots of fun and I think it was a good beginning. Hopefully, it will grow and become a fixture here in our town. Put up some strawberry-balsamic-black pepper jam.

Skye in one of his favorite places.

July began on a sad note.  We lost Skye to prostate cancer.  There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think of him and miss him.  We still expect to see him rounding the corner of the barn after his walk around the farm.  Although Border Collies aren’t supposed to be guardians, he always checked our boundaries and we wonder now whether his absense will make a difference here.  We’re grateful that Gemma got to know him at least for a little while.

We had a bit of a dry spell mid-summer but it turned right around and the grass came back pretty well. Put up some tomato puree and bread & butter pickles.

Ewes and their lambs loving the grass.

The grass is growing like crazy and the lambs look great!

By September, some of our lambs and all of the pigs were ready for the butcher.  Emily came to shear some of the lambs on a stormy day.  Thank goodness for the generator and an adventurous crew.  I don’t think the sheep noticed the power outage!

A number of our lambs and a couple of our adult ewes and rams went to new homes as breeding stock, too, so they’ll be making lambs and beautiful fiber for someone else.

Shearing lambs by headlamp during a power outage. Emily is such a trooper!

Farmers Market was winding down but SOAR and NY Sheep & Wool Festival (Rhinebeck) were coming right up.  The start of October was a little crazy with Jim at SOAR and me at NY but we managed and had a good time, too!

Our first customers at Rhinebeck. Happy spindlers!

And then our attention was turned to breeding time.  Which rams would get lucky?  Which ewes would be with which ram?  All the ewes were checked for body condition and internal parasites. Then they got pedicures and nice clean coats. Bartok and Cole met the girls in mid-November and by Christmas, it was all over but the waiting.  We finished our Good Eats page…phew!

The holidays were quiet and very enjoyable with our boys and grand-dogs visiting.  It was so low key that I forgot to take photos…but maybe Jim posted some on Facebook.  Santa brought us an iPad which I’m really liking.  I’ve already moved a couple of magazine subscriptions over to it. Saving some trees is nice but really, not having that paper coming into the house is wonderful!

It took winter a long time to get going but it’s here now and we actually have some snow on the ground. Coasting along now waiting for shearing and the arrival of lambs.  This is a good time for playing with fibery things.

 

 

 

the between days

I love the days between Christmas and New Year!  It could well be my favorite week of the year.  I get a lot done and, if only for a short time, I feel somewhat organized.  I might even have time to do something new and different…or something that’s been put off for lack of the good chunk of time it requires.

The pile of mail that lives on the kitchen table is gone and we can actually eat there.  The kitchen counters are uncluttered except for the plates of goodies we’re grazing.  The Christmas tree has settled into its spot where it greets friends who come to our door. When we take it down, the room will look as though something is missing.  I really prefer the tree to the chair that usually lives there.

Chores get done of course, but at a different pace and with less time taken out of the day.  That’s because we’ve “winterized” and everyone is close to home making chores more streamlined.

The blizzard that dumped on us earlier this week was a gift of sorts.  There wasn’t any point in trying to shovel or clean up.  It snowed most of the day and the wind was wild!  So after wading through knee high drifts and sledding hot water from the house to all the critters (all Jim’s doing!), getting hay out to all the sheep and clearing a small spot for the hens to come out into for their scratch and warm water, it was back to the house for a nice relaxing day.

We read and napped, we ate cookies and drank tea…and nursed sore calves and thighs.  We enjoyed an effortless dinner of Christmas leftovers and watched a movie.  Even Gemma got in on the laziness of the day and spent most of the afternoon napping with Skye.

snoozing dogs

lazy afternoon snooze

skye & gemma

I'm awake now...let's play!

Not wanting to hurt ourselves, we’ve been working on the snow removal in stages…there’s a lot of it!  The days have been sunny and unseaonably warm so we’re getting some help from Mother Nature and it’s fun spending time outdoors.

snow hens

The hens venture out into their newly shovelled yard.

On Thursday our spinning group, The Salt Bay Treadlers, made a field trip to Portland and what fun we had!  We had a fabulous fresh pasta lunch at Paciarino and then dropped in on the Port Spinners and joined them for a few hours of spinning at the Portland Fiber Gallery.

pasta lunch

The Salt Bay Treadlers enjoy some yummy fresh pasta at Paciarino in Portland.

spinners

We joined the Port Spinners for an afternoon of fun.

Before heading home, we did a little shopping at Terra Cotta Pasta Company in South Portland…laying in some comfort supplies for the rest of the winter ahead.  

Happy New Year!

coming and going

If you’ve checked us out on Facebook recently, you may have already seen a photo or 2 of our new family member…Gemma.  She’s a Goldendoodle pup who joined our family a week ago Friday.  We’re having a whole lot of fun with her.  She’s really quite laid back for a pup, smart as can be and CUTE!  Here are some puppy love photos for you…

gemma

gemma tongue

big puppy tongue

 

gemma sleeping

snoozing Gemma -- yes, that's the couch -- but she's not spoiled!

gemma & skye

Ple-e-e-ase play with me!

On the farm front, last week we brought all of our sheep home from their off farm pastures.  With the possibility of snow at any time now, it makes sense to keep chores as simple as possible. Close to home is simple.  At the same time, we pulled the rams out of their breeding groups…which brings me to the news that there will be lambs arriving this Spring!  Twelve ewes were with the rams and all were marked.  Now we wait. 

It was sort of like musical sheep around here for a couple of days with sheep arriving from here and there and various groups being merged.  The boys always have to figure out who’s boss when we put them back together so for a day or two, they’re shakin’ the barn walls. Even the ewes get into it a little…there’s a pecking order to be established you know!  But everyone is settled in now. 

Ina Mae & Iona

Ina Mae & Iona (front) in the RAV4 and ready to roll.

We had 2 bred ewes leave for their new home, too. Ina Mae and Iona have gone to live on North Haven island at Cider Hill Farm…lucky girls!

Now that the animals are organized, we’ll put some time into getting ready for Christmas.  Does anyone have a few elves they could spare? 

and another thing

WARNING…In this post there are photos of a whole pig being prepared & roasted.

Just about the time that our pigs went to the butcher and the beef & lamb we’d ordered from our friends arrived, it became obvious that we had a bad case of  freezer overload.  It was definitely time for the whole 40 pound pig that was hanging out in there to go.  He was completely stretched out and as long as the freezer…and every time I needed something that was under him I had to lift him out.  This gets old really fast especially as the weather changes to cold. I wasn’t loving hugging the frozen pig so much.

Our neighbors, Doug and Heather, who are always up for a food adventure came to our aid and the roast was on!  A few phone calls and emails produced about 15 friends who were willing to take a chance on our 1st attempt if it meant  feasting on some slow roasted (and a bit smoked) Tamworth pig…assuming we didn’t incinerate it.

We picked up the roaster from our friends at Three Little Pigs Family Farm and armed with detailed instructions and hours of internet research we went to work at about 7AM. 

Jim and Doug (aka The Cooks) got the fire started and then prepared the pig.

prepping pig

Doug and Jim butterflied the pig

  I tried not to get involved.  I had plenty to do preparing the sides and getting the house ready to receive hungry friends and family.  Heather arrived about 10:30 to help and brought some beautiful desserts.  Bless her!

waiting for fire

The roaster is getting up to speed...

By about 9:30 the fire was ready —

placing pig

On he goes!

Now it’s all about waiting…and waiting…and waiting — and resisting the temptation to lift the lid!

inside roaster

checking on the fire through the peep hole

OK…had to look!  At about noon, we’re almost there!  And people were starting to arrive — following their noses to the roaster in back of the house — and bringing more yummy food for the feast!  Wow!   The spread was spreading!!

half baked pig

Looking good!

The Cooks declared the pig DONE around 1 o’clock — YAY! — and called on me to carve.  Like I knew anymore than they did about how to dismantle the pig. I thought The Cooks should do it but…

pig done

That's one good lookin' pig!

As it turned out, the meat just separated from the bones…perfectly done,  juicy and flavorful. YUM!!  Those who braved the cold and smoke got to preview the main event.  Notice everyone snacking around the roaster…

attentive dogs

The dogs got into position just in case!

With one side completely “carved” we were off to the house for feasting and merriment…

carving

half the pig ready to go

And a good time was had by all!! 

pig party goers

gathering in the kitchen for pulled pork and all sorts of other goodies

I promise… This is the end of “catching up.”  More current news coming soon.

Thank you

The last month would’ve been much more difficult to get through had it not been for your kind and caring messages of support and condolence.  We’re reminded daily of Sadie — it’s very quiet.  She was our “greeter” and without her urging, Skye rarely ackowledges the arrival of guests or any strange noise.  (Border Collies don’t bark much) 

Thank you all.

Sadie & her chicken baby

Sadie had many babies. "Chicken" was one of her favorites.