Friday, March 22, 2013

Shearing time

 The first few days of March meant shearing time at the farm. Shearer extraordinaire, Mary Lake (top photo) joined us, and she and Neil managed to shear the entire flock in three days. It was busy in the new greenhouse, with friends and neighbors helping us to sort wool and wrangle sheep, and kids stomping wool down into the wool bags.                                                     


Thursday, March 15, 2012

They are coming fast and furious! Nine lambs born last night, raising the total to over sixty. We've moved the oldest ones into the new greenhouse barn with their mamas (left), with a view of the disappearing snow. While the warm weather is a bit strange for March, it has certainly cut down on the number of hypothermic lambs in our kitchen. And with a few hundred lambs to go (note the ladies in waiting to the right- look at those bellies!), we'll take it! On Tuesday, we saw our first robins and bluebirds here, a flock of geese flew over the farm, and Maeda (2 1/2) found a worm, "a big fat worm, mama!" Yep, no doubt about it, spring is springing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

First lambs

First lambs born last night!

Most of the flock is due around March 15, but there was that day in the fall when one of the rams got in with the ewes a couple of weeks early... Often the first lambs are the ones that end up in the kitchen, the squiggly born early ones who need extra TLC , but these two are strong, and as you can hear in the video, their mama is attentive and talking to them.
Clear sunny day here, snow bright (we got 10 inches over the weekend), barn cozy- a fine time to come into the world. Welcome little ones.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sheep rascals

It has been a rascally year for the sheep. Generally we can count on them getting into the garden a half a dozen times, usually in the fall when they start cycling, but this year they started their shenanegans early. We woke up some mornings in the spring and those sheep voices were way closer than they should have been. They took their favorite things, the two rows of peas, the kale, the brussel sprouts, still leaving us with an abundant, if specifically diminished, harvest.
But today I went out to get a bed ready for garlic planting and couldn't quite believe my eyes. I already knew that the sheep had been out the night before, as evidenced by the tipped over swingset, but I was unprepared for what I found- they ate everything! Echinacea leaves, old cucumbers, leek tops, strawberry and hollyhock leaves. They chewed the bark of the elderberries and devoured the horseradish plants, thin tall whisps of the leaf ribs sticking up where the bright green leaves were yesterday. They knocked over the bean tipi and ate the beans, plants and all, down to the ground, and while they usually leave a few tiny kale leaves on the plants, this time all that remained were the thick purple stalks sticking out of the ground.
We have already relinquished the garden to a few hard frosts, and the sheep did not do any permanent damage- the horseradish will grow more leaves in the spring, the elderberry bark will heal. It was not the grief of a garden lost but more a feeling of amazement at the thoroughness of their munching, and a surprise gladness, that the garden harvest could be made even more abundant with this food and medicine for the sheep, before the snow covers it all and really puts things to bed around here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Lambs lambs everywhere! Over 200 now in the barn, and about a third of the mamas still expecting. It is chaos! We usually separate the lambs after a day or two, but this year because of the weather we have left mamas and babies together. In our barn, the mamas are contained but the lambs can go where they please- this means gangs of frolicking lambs running up and down the middle of the barn, starting to venture out into the sunshine. Tressa has come into her own this year as a shepherd, completely comfortable around the lambs, naming the ones who distinguish themselves (flippy floppy ears, dot, cereal) and bottle feeding the ones who need it. The triplets have expressed a range of feeling about the lambs, excitement to terror- they are, after all, about the same size. They have mastered the "baaa baaa!", and Maeda calls them by their proper name, "yam". Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the voice of a lamb and the voice of a year and a half year old person.
Linden is in his element with the sheep, watching them, feeding them, peaceful and fearless. The other day we were all ouside with the expectant mamas, some 70 sheep in all. Nell was on Neil's back, I was holding Tressa's hand and Maeda in my arms, and Linden was holding Tressa's other hand, until he let go and just stood with the sheep. When we were ready to go back into the barn, we had to hustle through the gate so the sheep, who were gathered all around, would not follow us. "Where's Linden?" We looked out, and there he was, not a care in the world, 30 feet away with the sheep between us and him. I don't think he noticed that we weren't there; at least not until Moon, our tallest and most imposing llama, leaned right down to him as if to say "What kind of creature are you, and what is your business here?" Linden's face started to look worried at that point, but luckily that was just about when Neil got to him. I think I will remember that image for a long time.

Friday, December 31, 2010


She is here, sweet, beautiful, kicking up her heels already. Cinnamon arrived the evening of Dec. 26th, Tinkerbell's fourth calf, and first one to be a girl. That day Tressa was making biscuits that she covered with generous pinches of cinnamon, the smell and fine red dust all over her hands, the counter, a little bit sprinkling down to the floor- the calf looked like she had been in the kitchen and been sprinkled by Tressa too, just exactly that color, and so her name is Cinnamon.

Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter morning chores

Tinkerbell is about to have her calf! Just got back from morning chores- winter morning chores, snowy, quiet, chickadees singing- and still no baby yet, but she is close. She is in the barn with some of this year's lambs, as well as a few renegade chickens and our barn cats, River, Fuzzy, Raindrop and Bone. Most of the chickens are in the greenhouse, their winter quarters, where they can keep scratching in the dirt even when there is snow outside. The chickens' egg production follows the light, and so in December we were down to one egg a day, and then no egg on the solstice, but this morning we are back to one...and that's from forty hens! More daylight, more eggs, so it will only go up from here, but in the meantime we have been getting eggs for breakfast from neighbors who have lights in their hen house.

I walk by our clay oven on the way to the greenhouse, all tucked under a snowy roof, so quiet compared to the fire and bustle of summer pizza nights. These quieter winter days are fueled by the abundance of summer, in the hay we feed to the cow and sheep, the berries we have on our pancakes for breakfast this morning, the memories we carry tucked in our pockets.