Monthly Archives: December 2013

Lets Compare

Early Buddy

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Buddy now

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Peppercorn shortly after Buddy arrived

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Peppercorn this morning and 3 weeks to go:

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Tiny droopy piglet 2 months ago:

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Same droopy piglet today

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Little Blaze less than a year ago:

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Blaze in September

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To Blaze today in drunk-o-vision (curiosity of my camera)

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Gettin’ a little wide…and thats not just a bloated rumen. Hard to tell in this picture but we’ve got a few wide loads.

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Just a matter of weeks until everyones figure changes again! Can you believe its almost Janurary?!

 

Well, Happy New Year!

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Life Keeps Moving

Seems like everyone is pregnant these days. I mean, everyone of the girls on my farm. I can most certainly see piglets moving in Peppercorn now. She is like her momma and didn’t “look” pregnant, but she never came back into heat and got really spacy so I figured she must be pregnant. Buddy might have bred Rosie and Dot, dispite Dot still lactating. They both came into heat in late November and haven’t yet come back into heat. I’ve got a date with the butcher for them incase they arn’t bred, but I think Rosie knew she was on the chopping block so he did her darnest to get bred. We’ll how it goes with them. They may live to have another litter,

Buddy was supposed have been gone by then….but he’s taken an extra long visit at my place. I’m hoping to return him to his owner this week. But my livestock trailers electrical is pulled apart (thanks helpful neighbors!) and my truck isn’t insured yet, so I’m waiting for the owner to juggle all the millions of things hes juggling to pick up his boar.

Speaking of still alive….that ram has been behaving himself since he got back into the main pasture. This morning I made a hay bale wall and trapped a few sheep and trimmed some toes and trimmed up some poopy butts. Khoresh jumped the wall to make sure everyone was okay. He was perfectly polite to me and just watched me flip everyone over, sniffed everyone but didn’t threaten me. I grabbed him and trimmed his toes for the first time ever. His feet are perfect, as are his lambs feet.*sigh* then he goes out and beats up some more fence posts. He’s got alot of lovely qualities, and alot of bad habits. Oh well, another one tentatively on the chopping black.

The old ewes are showing. I can see the lambs moving inside Polly. No udder development yet so I do believe my lambing date on Jan. 27 to be correct.The lambs ewes always look chubby, I can’t tell with them.

Yeah yeah. Pictures. maybe I’ll post some tommorrow. I worked my butt off this weekend laying a floor, crutching my sheep then building a hay loft. I’m going to bed. zzzz…

Spinning My Bounty

As you know I have sheep. Wooly sheep. This means in my case I have lots of wool. I was going to sell my Jacob wool…then I realized  my relationship with my ex wasn’t going to last and he wouldn’t let me have any of the Jacobs besides Khoresh…including the ram I bought, John. So I hoarded their wool. Then spring came and I had to shear my new sheep. Again, stuffed into feed bags and hoarded. Now lambing season is threatening, I’m eyeing my lambs fleeces and I’ve got 8 or 9 bags of wool in my attic already that I’ve barely touched. It just doesn’t seem right.

The fleeces all had the major nasties taken out (they’ve been “skirted” in technical terms)….but its all still dirty with lanolin on it. Unwashed stuff. And its not been carded, or brushed out, either. The bags are filled with a mix of emotion and time consumption along with wool. I finally ventured into my attic and started poking around the bags. I pulled out a lock from Ash’s fleece and it glistened with little beads of something wet. I ran a lock through my fingers. Beads of lanolin. Oil. Sheep oil. Interesting, I thought, that it actually beads up. Her locks grow black but the sun bleaches the tips to a milk chocolate brown. The tips are a little dry and crispy, lightly felted together, but suprisingly clean.

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I’ve heard of “spinning in the grease,” but never done it. I’ve always washed the wool then carded it (which i never liked my end result) then spun the wool. I’ve felt it comes out dry, but its how your “supposed to do it.” I’ve successfully made hand spun wool then a scarf or hat, but never gotten from sheep all the way to clothing. Well, I’ve got wool to spare so i might as well try spinning from a raw fleece “in the grease.”

My word. It spun much better than any of my carded wool. Once i figured out to take the dogs wire hair bush and brush the felted ends open it was like spinning small bits of roving. It also kept the brown spots together to give the yarn a little color variation. Amazingly my hands got a little greasy, but hand hardly any dirt to show. My job as a jeweler leaves my hands dry and by the time i finished spinning yesterday the cracks of dry skin on my finger tips were closing up. Chirstmas day i spent spinning a single thread then I chain plied it this morning resulting in about 210 feet of 3 ply yarn. Afterwards I washed it.

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Suddenly the bags of wool upstairs doesn’t seem so daunting. it will be interesting to compare how everyones fleece spins up. As for this stuff im already making more. what a nice sweater it would make.

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Oh the Snow (part 2, quite a bit delayed)

Busy busy busy. Too busy to write. As I said the hard freeze was bad. The cold itself did not bother the pigs, but the frozen ground was unpleasant to walk on leading to Peppercorn twisting an ankle and not wanting to stand. This lead to her not eating in extreme cold. A few days I had to sit with her and hold her bowl for her while she laid down to eat lest it roll away or another pig take it away.

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Rosie enjoyed the hoop house the whole time. I left the barn open so they could sleep where it was most comfortable. For the first week most everyone choose the hoop house, but then Peppercorn, not feeling so good, moved into the barn and so followed her boyfriend, Buddy.

Buddy has gotten quite sizeable under my care. I need to return him. He has gained possibly 200 lbs since coming for his “short” visit. Image

He could hardly reach the 400 lb sow for service when he first came, now he is big enough that he can mount Rosie. And did. For three days. That was her first true heat cycle I’ve seen in a long time which confirms my belief she did abort thanks to the ram and delievered unviable fetuses. If she actually takes and doesn’t cycle again she lives, otherwise shes got a date in Janurary with the butcher.

So the cold. The cold made chores last longer. Animals move slower, need more feed. First the hose in the barn froze, so i used buckets to fill water. Then the water in the barn froze, so I hauled water from the house twice a day. Then the house pipes froze up….thankfully I have a stream so I was able to climb down the bank, get water climb back up and haul it to the animals so I was a solution to the problem. whew. In the stream we’ve got salmon running. Coho, chinook and steelhead. It’s been a good run so much so that every time i go to the stream to a bucket of water I spy 3 or 4 salmon.

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No, really, there is a salmon or two in there.

I supposedly chickens are cold hardy, but i decided to move the chicken tractor into the barn away. Bad idea. I let the birds out during the day and something came into the barn full of animals and killed a few of my chickens (barn rats?). Then two just up and died in the cold. I’m down to a rooster and a hen. 😦

Normally my chores take 15 minutes at most. With the cold it was running an hour to an hour and a half causing me to run off to work without taking time for breakfast because my morning commute was also doubled in time. Exhausting There is no other way to describe it. Then take into account keeping a fire going and having to slither under the house at 6:30 am to defrost the pipes and you begin to understand why farmers in the midwest raise their animals in large heated buildings. Why they choose to keep their hogs at a comfortable year round temp of 72 degrees with water always available and never problems with frozen pipes. Why chickens have a barn all to themselves with predators locked out.

But for those of us who farm without huge operations winter is maybe harder than summer. More feed, the sick get sick faster, water needs attention twice a day. Farmers are tough as nails, they get it done because they have to. I have more respect than ever for the folks out east who deal with this all winter.

To all you hard working folks who care for animals year round: you are amazing.

 

 

and I am pooped.

Country Caroling

I suggested caroling to our neighbors last night since I figured no one has ventured down our little old road to carol. Well, first of all it confused everyone because they didn’t know what to do. “Hey! Sandy! Theres carolers!”

“Carol who?”

“So, do you want to come in and sing?”

“No, your supposed to come outside and freeze you butt off with us!”

“So do we pay you now, or what?”

 

“Okay, don’t fall in the creek now!”

The best was going up to road to a friends. We drove up in the diesel truck but parked at the end of the drive way, hopped out and tried to light the candles and sneak up on them. Only their dog started going nuts. They saw giggling strangers in the dark lighting something and got freaked out. I realized this may be a bad idea when they turned on THEIR truck lights to see who was coming up their driveway with candles. Luckily we started singing and they realized it was us. As we finished singing and left Kes said, “I’m pretty sure I heard them cock a shotgun.”

The Great Christmas Carol Massacree (in five part harmony) was narrowly avoided. Maybe a lesson as to why people don’t carol in the country.

Next time we’ll be more prepared….we’ll bring the Baretta.

Farmhouse Cooking: Porkchops with Enoki Mushroom Gravy

My cooking usually consists of “what do I have on hand? This will go together!” Tonight was no different. I didn’t think much of my dinner until I ate it. Sorry, its gone. No pictures. I cook for one, measure by eye and taste. Its gonna be a vauge recipe. Deal with it.

 

Porkchops with Enoki Mushroom Gravy

Take 2 Porkchops, preferably from pastured pork, and dredge in

1/2 cup flour, 2 tbs ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt.

Toss them in a cast iron skillet with light oil over med-high heat in oil of your choice.

Meanwhile take 2 tbs butter and melt in a sauce pan. Once butter starts to brown add 1-2 cloves diced garlic, then add 1/4-1/2 cups enoki mushrooms cut to 1 inch lengths. Cook for 1 minute then add enough flour to soak up butter. (hows your pork chop looking? do you need to flip it?) Let it brown a little bit then slowly add 1/2 cup dark broth while mixing/whisking the flour mixture. Lamb broth is an excellent choice, but beef will do, too. Let it up to a boil and remove from heat. Salt to taste. Once your porkchops are done cooking set them on plates and drizzle the gravy over.

Yeah, its pretty bomb and takes all of 10 minutes to make. Don’t forget vegetable sides! A plain salad with a vinaigrette is a nice balance to the fatty main course. Of course, you can also never go wrong with pork chops and saurkaurt. Be sure to cook the saurkraut with the porkchop so it caramelizes thanks to the oil but don’t let the raw meat and saurkraut touch unless you intend to *really* cook all your saurkraut well. Food safely, yo.

So there ya go. Simple delicious farm house cookin’

 

Snow Daze

I knew early in the summer this winter was going to hit hard. I knew it, could “feel” it, talked with other farmers how it was going to be ugly.

Yet I wasn’t prepared. My alfalfa hay molded and I never was able to source good grass hay for the sheep. The “winter pasture” never got time to rest and grow back. Infact, i was never successful at getting a good cover crop over the ground the pigs tilled up. I was hoping for turnips, then as the year grew later barley. The barley I got was rancid and never took. I finally tried rye and as it started to grow we got a hard frost. For myself I failed to get a decent amount of dry wood. I had several offers of ” lots of free wood from our place!” but lots of wood to people who don’t burn for heat is actually very little if you do burn as your main source of heat. Then some of the wood got rained on. Like, soaked through and through.

So I haven’t entered into this winter with the best planning or supplies. Our well house *is* finally pretty much finished. Last year my ex just wrapped up the well-head and tank in insulation, straw and plastic wrap….last winter was mild so it worked. Wouldn’t have this year.

Around the country there has been record breaking cold weather. Oregon is no different. Our cold started creeping in last week as I desparatly tried to find good grass hay for my sheep. They were loosing condition, staying hungry and nibbling their pasture down to nubs. Everyone I talked to was out. Finally I called the guy I bought the moldy stuff from and to my surprise he offered to buy it back. Not only that, but deliver! Honest and standing behind his product….whaaaa?! He arrived before I had to leave for work and helped me stack up all my hay. My hero! Really, I can’t get over it. (Okayokay…maybe its because hes cute too…..)but its also he saved me and my animals because 3 days later we got hit with snow. Not only snow but the temperatures dropped down into the 10s. The girls are all pregnant: they need all the energy they can get.  So the snow posed a bit of a problem for my pastuued sheep.

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I’ve been leaving the barn open for them so they can sleep where ever; they’ve been opting for the barn. (random insert: munching on kettle chips  and my cat is attempting to steal them from me. Ha!) half my sheep have never seen snow before so when they woke up to find it white outside they hovered by the barn door for a while.  I found only 3 pairs of tracks: two turned around quickly, a third walked almost to the gate before heading back to the barn. This white stuff was odd and suspicious.

Luckily I had my hay and was able to feed them up. Blaze was mad that I switched to grass hay instead of alfalfa (which I’ll get in another delivery when my barn is ready for more and closer to lambing) so she chased me around for a few days screaming at me. Still, the grass hay didn’t seem like enough so I upped them to some grain. I started with my home grown corn:

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Painted mountain corn is a great homestead corn that is open pollentated and and survive and produce food in poor soils and under harsh conditions (see: my garden) 12% protein (compared to corns usual 7%) and lots of trace minerals. I’d like eventually like to switch to using it as my main grain. But right now I’ve got a limited quantity and it runs $20 a lb, so I give only a little out at a time. I cracked the corn mainly for the chickens figuring they could use a little boost, but shared some with the sheep. I noticed Ash is a bit gaunt so I’m going to start graining them a little, too. I hate to use grain as its like crack for sheep, but if ya gotta ya gotta.

As I said before I’m not prepared for winter. Today threw me a whole lotta troubles, i suppose though this post is long enough. We’ll talk about pigs and snow tommorrow. And frozen pipes. and my crawlspace full of spider webs. and hauling water twice a day. and why you should thank a farmer. but tommorrow, for I am tired.