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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.

 

 

 

Shearing Day…Spring is on the way!

This morning it’s snowing  just enough to brighten up the grey piles that pepper the landscape, but the other morning when I opened the door, I smelled Spring…a welcome change from the all familiar wood smoke of Winter! And last week, our cat was stalking a Robin that was flitting around in one of the apple trees.  A Robin…?  I know,  it seems a little early to me.  But I guess Spring really is coming… thank goodness!  We’re ready for it…even the inevitable boot-sucking muck!    

shearing grey

a little taste...

Another sign — SHEARING…the big reveal…our Spring Harvest!  It’s all happening on Saturday, March 5th.  Emily, our wonderful shearer, will get started at about 9:30AM and will finish up when the sheep are naked…probably about 4PM.  Come by for a fleece preview.  We’ll give you a job if you’d like one or you can bring a chair and just hang out.  Stay all day or for just a little while. We’ll be happy to see you !!  Can’t wait to see those fleeces!  It might be a little too early to see signs of lambs but maybe we’ll get lucky.

snow sheep

Waiting for Emily...growing yummy fleece!

I’m going to make some chili &/or soup & bread for all who’d like to stay afterwards. And we’ll have drinks on hand.  Please let us if you’re coming so we’ll plan enough food for all to enjoy and  please bring a little something to share (hints: chocolate is a big hit and I don’t bake). It’ll be fun to relax and chat after a day of fleece and sheep handling!

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? 

Scooping Poop

A lot of what we do around here isn’t glamorous.  Surprised?! 

During the five or six months that the sheep have access to their shed, they deposit quite a bit of poop in there.  Why?  Well, because given the choice of pooping inside or outside, they’ll usually choose inside.  I often wonder whether they’re marking their territory or just doing it to make us crazy.  In fact, it’s probably because they’re sheep and they just poop wherever they happen to be standing.  But we get to clean it up once a year.

So right about now you’re scrunching up your nose and making a face and thinking “Wow…they only clean the shed once a year…that’s disgusting!”  Believe it or not, this is a well respected/accepted method of bedding animals that was developed in Denmark (or thereabouts).  We layer straw on top of the poop regularly and as it begins to compost, it generates heat.

deep bedding

The bedding gets pretty deep and is quite compact.

 There isn’t any nasty ammonia smell because we make sure there’s lots of fresh air moving through. The shed is very open — no solid doors or windows — and the fresh layers of straw keep the odors at bay.

tractor in shed

We use the tractor wherever we can...small tractors can be useful!

 The sheep are cozy during the winter months and the bedding is breaking down and becoming good stuff we’ll use in the garden or pasture.  Last year, we housed our piglets in the shed after the sheep had moved out and they helped the cleaning process along by rooting up the packed bedding.
clean shed

After a couple of afternoon's work, the shed is clean and our compost pile is revived.

But this year, we cleaned up before the pigs arrived so we just used the tractor and people/pitchfork power to get it done.  All the bedding went into the compost pile and is happily cooking away.

inspection ewe

Spot does a thorough inspection after the shed has been freshly bedded.

 Spot approved our work and showed her gratitude by making a deposit!  Thanks, Spot!

More Shearing Day

And now a little creative piece from Jim.  Enjoy!