December 29, 2007 FEMA, SBA, USDA, NCRS, and a list of others. I have to say my only problem with these agencies has been me. I do not like paperwork and I have the absolute worst handwriting in the world. So not only are the answers a bit comical but they are illegible.
FEMA I learned is an agency who works to make sure homes are safe. They do not work with business losses. Their job is to ensusre people have the resources to make their home safe and livable. Not fancy, they will not replace my lost things, nor should I expect them to. The call-in process took 20 minutes, just as they said it would. I just answered the questions as they came. No arguing, not trying to add things on as personal property that was business or rental or recreational. The call was made on a Thursday and the inspection happened on Sunday. I got the check from FEMA the day after Christmas. It should cover hiring someone to scrape the muck out from under the house and we should be able to replace/repair walls and floors so the house will be more weather, and rodent resistant. I will wait after that to see what is left and what our priorities are.
SBA the Small Business Administration is an agency whose goal is to help homeowners and businesses with lower rate loans. I have three applications for this agency as we can apply for funds to complete work on our house, we will need to apply for Black Sheep Creamery as it is run by Gregory Farms, Inc. and we can apply for a loan to fix up the rental as we did not include physical property in the corporation. I had started the applications at home and went into the disaster releif center to finish. Business people ask circular questions to me…It is a foreign language. I went to the Yard Birds Shopping Center, they are headquarted up stairs. I was directed to the seating area by a man in uniform…wow. I waited my turn and at the reception desk was asked for picture ID by a gruff older gentleman. I provided my license and said I just wanted to talk to the SBA. “You sure?”, “oh yes,” I replied, “I have a USDA appt on Monday” . “Okay, here is your orange hall pass” then,with a twinkle, “If you do not bring it out with you I will put you in detention”. “Oh I quipped that may be allright, I have a four year old at home, I may want a vacation” He chuckled at that and off I went to the SBA office. Once I entered the room, the first representative who caught my eye waved me on up to the table. Poor guy. I had two out of three partially completed applications. I have a corporation, a rental and a home all on one tax parcel, mortgage, and equity loan. I know how my system works but he was clueless. It is such a small business especially since our friend Karen is off to another job in October it is just Brad and I, and I don’t even get paid. We both have part time jobs which go up and down in hours and I went from full time to no time back to two days a week at the Doctors office. Average that. Sigh. Some people would find that very black and white adding up the hours and dividing them out and there you have it. I on the other hand confuse myself with….well I may work 3-4 days a week if Teri needs me and I have coverage for the kids and Brad has transportation under control. If we bring the ewes due in March home to lamb then I will work less…..I was making more money as supervisor but now will be paid as a nurse…….(this is why I abhor jury duty). We got the house application done and I took it for Brad to sign. I have till August to finish the Business applications. It better not take that long but now I have a list of what is needed to complete them, balance sheets, tax statements, tax returns etc. If I look at one application at a time I will do much better. All in all it was a fine experience. If only they spoke english.
I will meet with the USDA/FSA (Farm Services Agency) representative on Monday. They are looking at ways to help us deal with the mud. How to make our land usable. I beleive Brad will be attending with me. In fact I know he will.
Today we have workers coming from Seattle and Oregon! We will face the muck and rain. It will be great each day is a step forward.
December 28, 2007 The letter of the week is M. What are words that begin with M? Mice, Mud Mountains, and Murphy’s Oil Soap. Staying at my parents home, who get TV reception, has been both good and bad. We get to watch Sesame Street in the morning. It is a good show, especially for my 4 year old who has been out of preschool for a month. The only problem is they stay on PBS and want to watch more and more. I think that is the main reason we never signed up to get TV reception at the farm. It is just too easy to watch a lot, even when the quality goes downhill. I have discussed Mice, no evidence of death and destruction yet. I am sorry I am not very nice when dealing with the enemy here. The Mud Mountains, or Mud Flats as one neighbor dubbed our corner of the road, gives us this tale of the intrepid adventurer..John the Gift. When I was at work on Wednesday Dr Miller and I were discussing that John just marches to the beat of his own drum. We pray this becomes an admirable trait rather than one that marks him throughout his life. John went outside with his daddy on Wednesday, Brad was doing something in the front yard. We had a Youth Group from Camano Chapel down and the County was cleaning out the culverts by the road. It was a busy place. So John in his 4 year old wisdom climbs the large mud pile in the front yard, and gets stuck in the loose mud on top. ( I do not know if this was before or after he gave himself and one of the cats a haircut!) Picture a little boy with a more than impish smile yelling out “Hellooooo, I’m Stuuuuck, Would someone pleeeeeease help me”. It took three guys and several branches to get him down as the heavier adults would sink a lot sooner and a lot deeper that a 45 pound 4 year old. Where are cameras when you want them?
Mr. Murphy’s soap and I had a day together in the house. I scrubbed the stereo and tv cabinets with the soap and then put on Howard’s Finish Feeder. Not too bad. Their feet have cracked a bit and I could not reach some of the very inside corners. But I tell you if the kids are playing in there, that far, it is not the mud they will need to be concerned with! The cabinets look okay, I had to lay them down on the floor and let the caked mud fall off the lower infrastructure then vacuum out what I could. It is nice to see they made it. They are not wonderful pieces of furniture but when we found them they seemed to fit the old house so well it will be nice to put them in their places…..and get more of the stuff out of the upstairs to give the cats more room for their mouse hunt. We, again were very fortunate, the water came up fast and went down fast. I suspect we only had water in the house for 12 hours or so. There are places in Centralia the water sat for a couple days. It was not moving as fast through there. I at least am able to try to save the wood furniture, they cannot. I have a nice table that my Grandmother had in her kitchen it made it too. Small steps. Each day if we get one more thing done we are a step further through the valley. Today…the paperwork, get the coffee ready!
December 26, 2007 The next big obstacle has been sighted. We have encountered a multitude of foes preventing us from returning us to our home. Or should I say preventing me from wanting to sleep there. I have two warriors who will gaurd the home front but in the midst of the mess from the flood they have been handicapped. Therefore Peter and I carried boxes back downstairs today so the cats can have free access to walls and niches to hopefully fight off the mice who have all moved upstairs during the flood. Yikes. I am not afraid of mice….but I prefer to see them first. I have an annoying habit of screaming and jumping on something when I see a rodent. It has always impressed my children. They will come running just to laugh at mommy standing on a chair. So we set out bait and moved boxes so the cats can find their prey. I hope they can accomplish their task fast. It will certainly be nice to be home. In my home that is in the midst of a “remodel”. One other animal control problem is that there is something living out in the “bunkhouse” or storage shed attached to the back end of the house. It has attacked our younger cat a couple times. I saw the frenzy of flying fur as the two animals fought and I saw the results of a tussle on Christmas Eve. Sam was mudcaked head to toe, and limping. I could not take him in to the vet so late in the day so close to Christmas. So we kept an eye on him and he has been recovering well. I do not know what is out there, I am assuming, hoping, it is a cat that took refuge in a dry building (sounds better than a raccoon, possum, or skunk!). I am not suprised at the change in habitat of all these other animals I have had to relocate as well. I wonder what happens to coyotes, and such. Will they swim downstream and find another home, do they drown? Rabbits and small animals must not make it very easily. I think my fish from my fish pond escaped. I have to let the water clear to see what may have stayed behind. Deer, moles, possums, beaver? The flood has such a large impact it will be interesting to see how it affects the wildlife in the area. But I would prefer to watch the wildlife be affected outside….not by building a large nest underneath my side of the bed.
December 24, 2007 We have been carried. It has been an amazing three weeks since a flood of untold and unprecedented proportions hit our farm. We were hit hard. We had water in our house, our barn, our cheese parlour, our cars and truck, our rental home next door. We lost 65 animals, some of our best milkers and all of our rams.
But, in the midst of our tragedy: We have been loved. We have been prayed over and lifted up. We have been challenged. We have been blessed. We have been hugged. We have been humbled. We have cried and laughed, laughed and cried. We have received more than I could ever give to anyone in my lifetime. I pray the overwhelming outpouring of help, love, donations, and prayers is not missed by myself or my children. I pray for our neighbors and friends who were also hit by this surge of water. Some lost all they had. Homes have been condemned, belongings gone, lost to muddy water and the muck left behind in their homes. Our children’s’ school and other schools were flooded. It has been a major event for this area, and the people who live here and around here have stepped up to the plate. We averaged 30 to 50 people helping out the first week. We have had work groups travel 2 to 3 hours to come and help. Several times! We will move home soon. The boys are doing well. We are tired but healthy. As I said we have been carried. We have been loved.
We sang this familiar Christmas Carol in church on Sunday, it seemed to hit home a bit more this year than in the past. Knowing the Angels sang to the lowly shepherds first has always made our sheep more special to me.
It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
From Angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angel sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.
For lo, the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old,
When with the ever circling years shall come a time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own the Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.
What a glorious vision.
Merry Christmas to all of our friends, Thank you all for your support, stay tuned as we advance to the new year and the flood becomes last year’s problem!
December 19, 2007 We wore out this week. It has been two weeks since the flood. A phenomenal amount of work has been accomplished by wonderfully dedicated, totally uplifting, and extremely capable volunteers. Old friends and New friends. We have been blessed. Our house has been gutted below 4 feet and has almost dried out to the point we can reoccupy it! Our yard has been scraped by a volunteer with a cat. Our garage hosed out and is holding household items needing assessment. Our picnic area and play yard have the first layer of mud off. Our Machine shed has been emptied and some of the smaller engines have been taken apart in order to dry out. We pray they will work. Our Cheese cave was saved, it sits in the driveway, in the wrong spot, but out of the way until we can relocate it again. Our cheese room has been cleaned out once, a group from Sultan came down today and began cleaning equipment more carefully. We will explore with our Dairy Inspector just how to go about the sanitizing process. Our milking parlor has been cleaned out also. The Barn is beautiful, inside. It has been hosed out and cleaned out well. The rental house behind the barn is ready to dry out now and awaits new drywall, flooring, and cabinets. Piles of garbage have been picked up and hauled away. Our poor beloved sheep that died have been hauled away and our live animals are up the road. Kim and Doug are more than caring for them they are babying them along nursing the injured back to health. Not only has so much been accomplished on the farm we have been oh so very richly blessed by people sending e-mails, cards, prayers, donations. These come from people who have sheep, people who have flooded in their past, people who like to eat, people who appreciated what it takes to make artisan cheeses, good people with good hearts. Churches have blessed us, family, my parents have housed us and our not so quiet boys. Our two dogs have stayed with our minister and his family, sharing their care with a family next door. They took us in the night we were flooded out. Our kids have stayed with friends who have “normal” lives. Friends, old and new, have changed their lives to meet us in our mess. People are great. I needed to look at all that has been accomplished till now. I started to sort papers today. I found all the birth certificates and the kids report cards. They are drying. Fortunately the pictures were all up high. Brad has begun the tedious process of sorting the machine shed, he took a load to the recycle place today and came home with $94, not bad. The thing that will slow me down now is the paper work. I admit it I would rather be moving ahead than sorting and claiming what is behind. It will happen, given enough coffee, anything can happen. We hope to take the Christmas weekend off. We have one more group of volunteers coming from the Bellevue Presbyterian Church tomorrow and Friday. We hope to have things to the point of just spraying bleach once a day and then looking forward to the Celebration of the Birth of the Christ Child. We thank each and every one of you who has opened your hearts and hands to us. We will celebrate this season of rebirth and renewal and come back stronger for the road traveled. I hit a wall today, but then I have had opportunity to look at all that people have done for us I will be able to climb that wall, maybe using your backs and shoulders and hands that you have offered us. When we reach the top of the wall we will offer a hand up to others as they climb. Thank you.
December 17, 2007 I think the only time I am aware what the date is is when I am sitting here by the calendar. We had a very busy weekend. Saturday a wonderful group came from Mt. Vernon with additional friends from Whidbey Island. This group was organized by Karen Gribble who has visited us in the past and has been building her flock of dairy animals. What a blessing these folks were, thank you Joanne and Steve…….. Another friend just joined us for the day Keith Chadd who I met at the Puyallup Farmers Market came down to help out. Together these folks finished taking out the floor in the Rental House, finished gutting insulation, pressure washed the garage at the rental and then they moved over to the Machine Shed, emptied it out along with Teri and Ted Blankenship who pressure washed what what left in there. There were several other folks who dropped in, two men who work together at the Dept of Licensing came and helped remove all the wood that was up against the wall in the woodshed, then they helped my son and his friend Caleb dig out the play yard. The “Cat” man was back to move more dirt, we have a 5-6 foot mountain in the front yard now. It was a good day! Kailey and I dug through the house trying to free up the bedrooms so we can move back in. People delivered a washer and a dryer, a refrigerater, a stove, and I have not told the kids, a TV. A couple had a loaded trailer and brought down a bunch of things from Anacortes. They had their two boys with them and the first thing they did was walk in the mud, boy do I see that happening a lot from here on out. We were hugely blessed by a gift from a group at the Everett Boeing plant. Wow, Thanks to those folks who work hard and had chosen to sponsor a family for Christmas. Apparently they were such a generous group the put together enough to sponsor two families. We were selected for that. This experience has been a huge lesson in the generosity of people. It is so tempting to say oh no but thank you we will make it, my pride wants to do that. But then I look at the person offering the hand up and the sincerity and the genuine caring about our losses are there in their eyes. God has been good to us. We have often been on the giving side of these events, maybe not often enough as I look at what has been pouring into the community. God has blessed us in the past and will again, and I tell you I will not waiver a millisecond to send a blessing to someone who needs it in the future.
It was very special of Keith to come down to help us clean up. Keith raises St. Croix sheep which is one of the breeds that could be considered as a dairy breed. The St. Croix is a hair breed rather than wool. We were going to buy a ewe to see what the potential was for this breed. When we collected the animal Keith talked us into taking two, then told us to pay off the debt in cheese. He wanted to see what the dairy potential for these two ewes would be. The sad part of the story is that neither of his animals made it through the flood and there will be no milking records to share with him. But he came to help anyway, thanks.
Sunday the FEMA inspector came to verify our losses. It is a brief visit so we had planned to go to church for the Christmas Cantata. Then Transalta came and began to suck out the 6 inches of mud in the basement next door, and then Brad called me over to help because there were too many boxes and things down there for the machine to suck around. We spent an hour or two running gloved hands through chocolate pudding to find bits of dishes, Christmas tree ornaments, Phone books, toys etc. It was sad. I was muddy down into my boots. Luckily I knew where a clean set of clothes were and I could get to them. Also there was no one in the house so I did not have to track the mud all the way up stairs. Back to sorting and organizing.
Then the visit of all visits came. Our friend Delphine Tramm came. There were three boys born to the original Tramms that bought the property back in the 1800’s. Two of the brothers stayed after their parents moved into Chehalis. Wec and Lee farmed the land and had a cow dairy. The third brother , Willis, had a feed store up in the Parkland area. Delphine is the only relative left from the original family that built up the farm, or ranch as she called it. She has stories to tell as did Lee Tramm when he came to visit. I think she was one of the hardest visitors to have on the property. She knew what the losses were. She knew how long it took the family to build up what was there, and could probably tell us who built what, how it was used and a story about it as well. I felt a twinge of guilt as she viewed the property. Not a rational feeling by any means but I felt I had not taken good enough care of the farm. Isn’t it amazing what we can do to ourselves. Delphine left us a very nice note, along with a boatload of groceries and stuffed animals. She told us to “the ranch is a forgiving ranch and a loving ranch. It’s also a lucky ranch. If you give to it , it will give back to you as you probably already know. We were always so happy that people like you bought it because you seem to love it as much as we did and still do”. Thank you Delphine. She knows we will pick up from here and we did not do this to the farm/ranch. One of the next generation of “Tramms” stayed and helped me organize the kitchen. Thank you Susan, I hope to move home soon with all the kids under one roof!!!
December 16, 2007 AM Will keep this short as we have a 7:15 appointment with the FEMA inspector this Morning, and my mind is dead, I will go “coffee up” and get on out there🙂.
December 15, 2007 AM Saturday. I should be doing flu shots today at Northwest Pediatrics. I have missed several days of work at my Winter fill-in job. Not only have I missed days there but several have come out to help us dig out of our mess. About two years ago I met with Teri at a local coffee shop to encourage her to look at taking my job at NWPC since I knew I was going to cut back on hours. Yesterday Teri and I met at the same place and worked out some days I could go back to work at NWPC till May. What a funny turn of events, but so nice to know we are good enough friends she could lay out what her needs were and I mine and come to a workable solution for both ends! People are good!
I had plans yesterday to continue working upstairs, to get a computer set up to do bills on and then go outside in the PM to work on a pile of our farmers market things that need to be cleaned. Mr. Burbee showed up with his pressure washer. Angela and I had thought his offer of washing would be great to get the mud off the porch and house. My new area of focus was to remove all the stuff we had piled out to the front porch. We could only take it that far at first as the yard was still soup! Now the water is beginning to drain and a tractor had cleared the thick part from in front of the porch. We moved and scrubbed and I will bleach the outside of the house today. It looks so much better. I even turned the Christmas lights back on the wreath by my kitchen door.
Later in the day a man with a cat showed up, “would you like me to scrape this mud away from the house?”! You bet! It turns out this man is a Pilot who lives here locally, happens to have heavy equipment and the ability to operate it and was just out trying to help people in a way he could. He had even take time off his job to help people in the area. He had some gruesome stories to tell of homes with 7 feet of water in them and a deep residue of sludge. In many areas things are just plain bad. Mike and Heidi Peroni at Boistfort Valley Farms were really hit hard with this. I read in the Capital Press yesterday of a farm whose animals were floated to the rafters in their barn and caught. How does one remove a cow from over their heads! My favorite nursery was hit hard I saw Connie Davis of the Dirty Thumb at the meeting Thursday pm, she will be back. It is good to see.
December 14, 2oo7 Angela and I began to unearth the beds yesterday. On Monday, 12/3, as Peter and I carried things up stairs we just put them anywhere we could. On Wednesday when we got back into the house I had two “clean kids” upstairs and as we found dry goods we tried to get similar products into similar rooms. It went fairly well but now is time to dig out. I put away the Christmas decorations. They belong upstairs in the bunkhouse so we could get them put away. The bathtub is piled high with books so I will get a few boxes to store them. Our bed has the bills on it and all the stuff from the office that was dry…will get to that one.
Brad did very well with and is very grateful to the group from Classical Farms. They cleaned out a storage building, and began to take apart motors that got wet. They attacked the old Granary first. They stuck a shovel into some old clover seed that was in there, it sparked. They dug deeper and found a place in the center that had smoldered to ashes. I have always heard wet hay etc burns. Peter explained it to me “the water evaporates and the vapor rising causes enough friction to ignite the product”. Yikes, timing is everything. Brad felt very good about progress outside, the machine shed is next, the woodshed needs to be emptied….we just filled it up, but the wood is stacked so it is retaining moisture in the walls. It must get out. The play yard will need to be shoveled. I want my younger two boys to be able to come home. We went to a meeting in the community last night. As the man described all that was in the water as it washed into houses and yards, I can understand a bit more how dirty it is. We have also determined it is not good topsoil that floated in, it has a lot of clay in it. I will dig it into my flower beds as there in only a few inches there and I have very good soil underneath but the yard and the play yard, what a mess. I did hose out the 8′ by 8′ play cabin last night, in the dark, in the cold, with a leaky hose. I could only think of the fun the boys and I have had out there, especially on hot days we could take toys out to the play house and I would fall asleep on a mattress while they played and drove cars through my hair….I never stay awake in the heat. We have spent the night out there, Peter more than the littler boys. They could run a cord out to the building and watch a movie on the laptop when a friend spent the night. I will look today to see how well I did. It was pretty dark when I finished.
Representatives from the Washington State Farm Bureau stopped by bring wishes of good luck and information about feed that has been sent into the area. I had a chance to speak with Kim earlier and discussed the differences between the appetites of our animals and her Shetlands, and Churros. Ours are greedy. We were told early on one sign of a good dairy ewe is that they are greedy when it comes to the food bunker. We will see if we can get some additional feed out there as our girls are big and demanding….which is a wonderful sign to us who know them and know this is healthy behavior. It is very daunting the first time they rush you and your legs are pinned between animals with heads in the feeders and you cannot move until one of them is done eating. We will look for feed!
We attended a meeting in the community last night, Wonderful information all sorts of helping agencies had 5 minute spiels on what is available or what is important. How to clean homes, the lecture on mud, where to find water, how to clean wells, who has grants, loans and information to get us back up and going. It was well done. The Sheriff spoke and I had not realized we only lost one life in this flood. The rescue efforts were huge. Another man shared the velocity with witch the water was spilling down the river and how much larger that was than 1996. It was huge. It is an amazing thing.
December 13, 2007 Today is the paperwork day I have to get through to FEMA and get that done. I also copied off the list of sheep we have left from Kim. I will revamp my ewe log with the due dates listed in order so I will know when we actually will start lambing and in what order. That will help me a lot. It is my thing to watch the ewes, make sure we start graining on time and know who we are to check on which nights. This year will be a bit different but we need to know what to expect. The ewes are doing well, I saw Kim at the lunch center in Adna yesterday. What a blessing they are!
Mrs. Gregory, Pam Jones and I scrubbed the floor in the mud room yesterday. Yes it is an aptly named room and will be for several months. It has a tile floor so we bleached and scrubbed it and it looks beautiful. We brought in some metal tool shelving to stack all the cleaning supplies on and the kitchen has space to move in some appliances. As long as something is necessary and mobile it will work in the house. The two Mr. Gregorys worked in the rental and got the last of the kitchen cabinets and the flooring out. It still has 6 inches of muck in the basement but the Transalta gully washer truck will be by again soon and we are on their list for a basement cleanout. I wish the ongoing house cleaning was that easy. Today our friend Ross Merker from Classical Farms in Yelm will be there with his crew to help Brad do what needs doing. I think they may attack the machine shed. It is a mess. Ross has a man who is good with motors we hope he can look at what we have that went under and see if anything is salvageable. People who recognize and use their gifts are a blessing. It really takes all sorts of skills and ability to lead and see the whole picture all the way down to the small picture. God has been good. The bible talks about one body many parts, it is nice to see the hand scratching the ear, the mouth speaking ideas the brain has placed there and the heart keep beating. We are blessed by people working together to get this community back on its feet. I am in awe.
December 12 2007 The answer to yesterday’s mud question came from the Health Dept….mud and muck has various chemicals in it that will cause rashes or illnesses. I can understand that but I have boys who play in the dirt…The thought is just hose them off good when they come into the house. The mud is also is the area where I used to have my vegetable garden. I have not had time to garden for a couple of years so it needed refreshing. I guess it will be a bit longer……I think I can find a few other things to put on my to do list.
Last night we were able to attend a worship service at the Church of God put on for families whose kids go to the Centralia Christian School. It took on 18 inches of water. Brad works at the school and we have walked through it but have had not time to volunteer. They have had so many families involved and helping they are in fairly good stead to reopen on January 2nd. It had not really occurred to me how big this thing is. I know it has been on the national news but we do not have a chance to watch that. I know a lot of businesses got hit but I went to the disaster meeting Tuesday and there was standing room only in the Ballroom of the Aerie I saw a lot of people I know and have worked with over the years. It is heartbreaking as I have had a chance to drive around a bit more. Copy and Printing stores under water. All that beautiful equipment. Restuarants with their chairs and tables outside, copiers. Wow. Furniture stores, Mattress stores. Drywall piles at the Home stores. Piles of belongings as you drive down the street waiting on the curb for pickup. It is incredible. The school has been blessed by loads of volunteers, which is huge. Jamie Kaiser, who was a student there in his younger years, now owns a Construction Company, he came the very first night they got back in and with his crew pulled out 80% of the carpeting. Incredible! The kids did all get out of there by 2:00 on Monday the 3rd and “God will provide all our needs according to his Glorious riches in Christ Jesus”. I will trust that as I look at what is being provided, we have been blessed., I say that over and over but our spirits have stayed up quite well, the task could be daunting but the prayers we are being upheld with are working. My mottoes have been “things are things”, God has a bigger plan than Me, and now I will know that what is being supplied to us is of as plan far beyond my understanding. It did not dawn on me till last night that not only was our town and farm hit, our two boys’ school, but Brad’s off farm job, he works there about 10 hours a week. It is time to get my head out of this bucket I placed it in..Kinda like taking the ewes across the running water we could do that If they could not see what it was they were walking into…..I must be a good shepherdess if I can act like them as well as I have been! We will carry on.
December 11 2007 We did get into the rental house yesterday. I think I found a good way to deal with frustrations. Lily Lo and I were there doing the first bit of dry wall removal. A swift kick into the wall and it is amazing how tension eases. Sigh. Lily and my cousin Kathie did great, they got all the walls exposed. I went to a meeting at 11:30 put on by the Chamber of Commerce on what is available for business owners as far a assistance, grants, loans etc. It was very useful information but took time. I got on line today to begin filling out the forms, hit a wrong button on the keyboard and now cannot get back into the site…..yes, I am over 40 and these computer things sometimes throw me for a loop. Sigh. The two younger boys went back to the property for the first time yesterday. It went better than I had feared as they had been asking questions. They thought all the mud was cool and once they found the transformers had been saved all was well….oh to be that far under 40! John went out to check on his play yard, got his boots stuck in the mud and fell over. I have a call in to the Health Department today. There is mud everywhere. We have 6 to 12 inches of silt in the yard. How long and in what temperatures will the bacteria they warn us of live???? I know as soon as we move home I will have muddy clothes to deal with on a daily basis. (except for days it never thaws out) What are the risks, and for how long or is it more of an issue in a warmer enclosed space and in actual water not mud…..Gotta get more info. I was a public health nurse but never dealt with those questions. We are stymied by this mud thing. We have a lot of offers of sheep and people would like to buy a ewe as a Christmas present but we have no experience with what the progression of the mud will be. We have fence lines to fix but the post bottoms are set in 12 inches of silty mud. We have a lot of ground that is already showing green again and may be able to support our own spared ewes on our land this spring but it will be March or April before the grass will grow and we will not want it churned up and chewed down until it gets a chance to regain a strong foothold. Time will tell and we will post information as we know it. In the meantime we thank all who would like to send animals….we will address space and pasture as we can. Brad is out attempting to unearth the machine shed today. I am trying to deal with finding bills and paying those I know were on the desk when we bagged it all up and put it all in a nice pile up stairs…behind the dishes books pots and pans….etc. I know there were only about 4 as I thankfully had paid everthing on the 30th on November. Kids are getting restless will go be a mom and get back to bills applications etc soon.
December 10 2007 AM The weather turned a little colder yesterday, but spirits remained warn and energetic. The Barn crew had a big fire burning and accomplished a lot. Jeff Sherer returned with his heavy equipment and fire hose and the Southwest Washington Sheep Producers Association came and got the barn cleaned out. I saw a lot of my friends from Northwest Pediatrics scooping the barn as well. Its beautiful. It is a lovely barn that is over 100 years old. We had just applied to have it listed as a historic barn in Washington. I had a call from Artifacts Inc. last Monday, as the waters were rising. I assured her they were not predicting this to be too bad the barn will be just fine….. This group is doing some of the investigation work for the State Archeology Dept. We had a date for them to come out today 12/10 at 10:30 to see the barn. Last week after the flood they extended the date to January. Little did I know we almost could have had them come today.
My cousin Kathie came down from Tacoma and we have been ripping out the last of the drywall, scooping mud out of the crevices at the edge of the flooring and in the grooved bead board walls. Diane returned today to help and with a spirited smile deemed it a very “Groovy” old house. They driveway was scooped yet again and is now passable all the way around. We will be having a topsoil sale this spring ans summer. If the people up river do not reclaim this land we will be passing it on! The Childrens program was at church last night so we left in time to see how life should normally be progressing towards Christmas. It was very nice to see all the kids singing . We were getting ready for the arrival of Christmas at the house. Advent started the Sunday before the flood. Christ’s birth will be celebrated on Christmas but I see the reflection of His birth each day as more and more help is given, more and more offers are given to us. The sacrifices others are making to meet us in our need is so remarkable. And not only at our farm all up and down the road those who were flooded are seeing the light of the generosity and we are smiling. bouyed by the gifts and we are loved. Thank you!
December 8, 2007 PM Wow, the Heifer Project Group from the Seattle area showed up with boots, overalls, shovels, rags, bleach, etc. They helped to finish mucking out the barn. They scraped and scraped and scooped and scooped. The Barn was smelling. they attacked the last bit we had not yet gotten to from last years lambing. One area was still 1 1/2 feet high with old straw. They finished the job as Jeff Sherer and his family showed up with a backhoe, a water truck and a long hose. They hosed out the barn….you could hold a dance on one side of the barn! Woo Hoo, Big thanks to the Heifer Volunteers and Sherer Excavating. Wow. The Heifer Volunteers also hope to come back later when we need to be putting up fence or we know how the grass is to respond to all the silt and mud that has piled up. Hurrah to the LDS Church as well. They donned their yellow shirts and traveled up and down the road looking for places to help out. Wow, I saw some pretty messy yellow shirts this afternoon along with some extremely nice faces that reflected the joy they had at helping out. Thank you so much. Thanks again to Symons Frozen Foods, whose Plant Manager thought to bring us a truck trailer for the furniture, a pickup with a water tank, a blade for our tracter and spent the day pushing mud around and collecting the straw from the back of the barn the Heifer Volunteers pushed out. I don’t think that I am supposed to mention the time he got the Tractor stuck…Sorry Vernon the word is out. Thanks to these groups the other side of the barn….the collectable side, the wood storage side has begun to see daylight. It has been the farmer side of the barn “someday we my just need this, put it in the barn” it is scary. Well Brad and I let Jennifer Polley make the decisions for us and walked away. Smart man. It is looking good and may just be ready to dance in as well. Wow Jason and Jenn, Kailey and Anna disinfected two of the rooms in the house. The bleach and scrub thing thirty inches up the wall. Such hard workers and such beautiful results. It is coming together. The Gregorys returned and pulled the fireplace insert,cleaning the mud out. along with several other jobs that just keep us going. Along with a delicious taco soup, we may gain our winter weight yet. Thank you Lord for a beautiful sunny day. Spirits were soaring all up and down Bunker Creek Road lots of volunteers and help everywhere.
December 8, 2007 Progress continues to be made. The kitchen has been gutted, the bathtub came out. It amazes me how that fine silty mud gets everywhere, under, over, and inbetween. We are mucking and mucking. We have had our moments to make fun of ourselves. The Gregorys….who are not related to us in any direct family way….have been over daily with food, with offers of help equipment. They have been wonderful. I would life to refer all those tough questions to “Mrs. Gregory” but it may get more confusing as we go. Then we have the Peterson connection Diane and Debbie Peterson cleaned out the Bunkhouse together. I do not believe they are related either. We in our loopy states of mind need to stay alert! Yesterday four of the cheesemakers from Beechers came and they mucked out the dairy and cheese room. We have a drain that kept clogging and they overcame that and hosed it all down. I only looked in the door but what great progress was made. It was a gift and off they went with our boxes of cheese. I did not mention, as I knew I would miss a person or two. the Blue Rose Dairy. Rhonda and David Rider and their girls have been a constant on our farm since she began to make cheese in our cheese room in 2006. They helped us put in the cave and had their cheese in it as well. They have been great, especially since they are still milking their animals once a day and had 2-3 inches of rainwater in their basement as well. Rhonda brought our lunch on Wednesday and was clean, no mud yet, she offered to brave the cave. I did not watch. The cave was still stranded on a fence post but they all said was somewhat stable…..yikes. Rhonda wrapped all of our cheeses and got them ready to go to Beechers it was a blessing, and a very big job. They got the vacuum sealer out safely and the Riders took their remaining inventory home with them to seal for the Markets they still attend. You will find them this time of year at the Pike Place Market. Thank you Riders. We have a church friend with a dump truck and we have begun to haul off the trash, Thank you Denny Sabin. We met Bob. He has been a long time friend of Bob Larson our neighbor who dairy was spared by inches so Bob dropped by our place and offered two days of assistance. Being familiar with dairys he helped the hose out of the cheese room. Thank you Bob. The Boes showed us with mud boots and wonderful determination of healthy energetic kids. The are a family we have met because of the sheep. They had purchased a couple ewes from us and we have bred their “flock” for them. Last year we posted a picture of their quadruplets with our quadruplets delivered of Snowflake. Who by the way did survive. The Boes with snow shovels in hand began to scrape the barn out. Wow, Thank you Boes! I did find time to make it out to where the sheep are housed yesterday. I almost got bowled over by Brutus the gaurd dog , whose wonderful bark greeted us when we got back to the farm. The animals are all looking well, no one is seeming shocky from the event, and no one has appeared to abort at this time. Keep praying. One did have and infected cut on her back foot so I called the vet to please make a farm call to this other place to be let in by Doug our new friend, it was 2:00 at the time of the call and the vet made it and reported back. We were blessed and the sheep are really looking great. We can now say that we have 23 animals left as well. Emily was pulled out of a pile of about 12 dead animals. She could not stand on her back left leg. We almost had her put down with the two others who were very shocky and not responding at all. Emily sat on the cement and ate the hay we had given her as we were pulling dead animals from her pile. She looked to good to put down and Kim and Doug who were willing to take all the animals also took her. We knew she may have a problem but Kim planned to nurse her along. Kim gets a medal. We still have Emily as of today and the vet thinks it was just a bad strain and not a permanent disabling problem. Hallelujah! Thank you all we will go on and carry forth and be back to report more this evening!
December 7, 2007 God is Good and people are great. Again to those who came and have offered to come as you can or as we need you thank you. Those offers of help, those praying for us those folks who have had this experience and have helped us by sharing what they learned. It is all so powerful and it is keeping our heads literally above water. We thank you! Yesterday we accomplished quite a bit. Puget Sound Energy workers came with a crane a tractor and a dump truck. They scraped and scraped the driveway down to the gravel. We have about 1 1/2 feet of muck across the front of the property dammed in by the road. They put a load of gravel in front of the main door we use to get into the house they used the dump truck to haul away the first load of garbage. These wonderful workers from PSE also took the cheese cave off of the fence post it has been perched upon. Brad and I were bemoaning the loss of all the new fencing he has been putting in for the last two months…That fencing is what hung up the cave and kept it from floating away. Wow. Transalta had a couple workers there in the morning when we got to the farm. Transalta will bring in their heavy equipment and take care of the pile of carcases. It is ugly, it is such a hazard, it is now out of our hands, literally, again. We do not have a big loader, I can only thank them for relieving us of the gory job of disposal. The boys have also found several carcases of other animals around and I believe Transalta will be searching out those as well. What a releif. Ours are small, it is the cow dairy next door that lost 200 cows that I cannot even fathom the cleanup without such a gift. Transalta has also offered to haul away the trash from our community. The road was lined with cars and people helping their friends as we drove through Adna yesterday. Yards were full of debris, belongings hauled out of homes, and drywall, carpeting, and cabinets. Transalta has arranged for the community to dump garbags at a local park and they will take it away from there. Again, Wow. We have had two friends there with us for two days. One is a drywaller and painter by trade,. what incredible expertise. His wife is my Kitchen General. I told Laurie the first day I cannot make decisions, you toss everything and direct people to do so. Hand out jobs to people as they ask, and to me too. She knows me well enough I can trust her judgement, and if something gets tossed she thinks should not she will come and clarify. What a gem!! Again, Wow. Our Operations General is up in Monroe. I cannot believe how much Gretchen has done for us. She has releived us of making plans. She has become a source for so many to call or e-mail as we only have cell phones at the farm. She has taken offers, clarified them presented them to us and realizes we can only take so much at a time. It has been huge! For those who could not reach us she has taken care to communicate so much. Gretchen has lived in a flood prone area as well she know it will take a while for us to know how much land we will have that can support animals this spring. This muck just sits so far, I am not sure how the pastures will fare and fencing…..oh boy. Again, Wow. Our day care provide for the past several years has loaned us her truck and, her husband who is a contractor has been dutifully looking through heaters, discussing how to progress with fans, heat, appliances, what furniture has a possibility of salvage and what to just toss. The Kitchen cabinets have got to go. At first they looked okay but Matt says now think of what is behind them and under them and in a few months what that will be like. Okay I am beginning to see the light….they gotta go. Again, Wow. We have had two families with us for two days helping, others have come and gone as they can. Others calling to organize work parties, Gretchen has been doing that from afar. Thank you all so very much. We have been blessed by your prayers, by your encouragement by your spirit of generosity. Thank you. Thanks to Provista in Portland who offered a truck! We are sending the surviving cheese to Seattle but they go back and forth every week. What a blessing. Thank you all. I will let you know what we are doing here and what we plan to do. If you have any ideas or know something we need to know send us an e-mail. We will be able to access the internet each night here as we stay at my Parents home in Centralia. Wow, People are great and God is Good.
December 5, 2007 We have been flooded out of our home and are farm. We have lost 75 percent of our flock and I do not want to even think about how the 22 that survived have survived. We do not believe we had any ground that was not under water Monday night. It has been a series of events that I cannot yet fathom. We knew we would be getting high water Monday as it rained all night long. I woke to the sound many times overnight. Living in a flood prone area you just know when the river will rise and watch the signs. Knowing how fast and furious this flood came upon us was unpredicted and I believe unpredictable. We survived the 100 year flood in 1996 so once we realized it was to be that way or worse we were already cut off from any roads off our property. There was no escape.
I had taken the kids to school in the morning as usual, the water was 5 feet away from our road but, it has been higher, so life in Lewis county goes on. About 9:30 the reports began to predict that this flood would be almost as bad as the ’96 flood. I began to think about getting the kids back from school. Brad was out moving the rams out of their pen to a drier, higher area. I helped a bit as the reports on the radio were not alarming …yet. Then it changed. Suddenly we were seeing that this water was coming up even faster than in 1996. I decided to go get the kids then but I could not get out in the Subaru. The water was over the road at our Corner. I went back home as Brad was just finishing up with the rams and he went out in the Truck to get kids. He called me after he got past our corner and said he hoped it would be passable to get home. Oh, my. I went out to feed more hay as the animals were done with their morning rations already. The lambs were stuck on the wrong side of some water that had crested the bank. I opened gates and tried to get them to follow me but resorted to the grain bucket. One lusty soul stuck her whole head in the bucket and came right along with me. The rest thankfully played follow the leader and got through the ankle deep water right behind her. I tried then to feed hay in the loafing shed since about 30 animals were in there. As the waters rose I began to see that the loafing shed would be flooding and tried to wrestle some of the older ewe’s to push them out of the door They were not impressed with my attempts and were very fearful of stepping into the mud and water. I found 6 ewes stuck in a small alcove already knee deep in water and no way out but to go through water that was chest high. I was thinking I wanted to panic. I tried grain, I tried throwing hay in the mud to move the ones out of the loafing shed. I went back into the barn looking for anything I could get to pull, push, prod. I wanted to panic, again, but that would not help. That was when I saw the tail end of the truck pull into the driveway and felt such sweet relief as my husband and three children tumbled out. With Peter and Brad helping we got the ones out of the knee deep water. They pushed the 30 ewes out into the mud and I got them into the barn through a 20 foot wide river that had grown to 30 feet by the time we finished moving those ewes to the barn. We opened up the area of the barn that had been mucked and cleaned out to prepare for lambing season and fed hay. All the animals were now in the barn which was the highest possible place they could be. We took the kids back to the house stumbling through the ruts in the driveway. Brad cut power to the Cheese Cave as it was surrounded by running water on both sides. We were cold and hungry, I opened up some chili as it sounded like it would warm us up in a hurry. We looked out the window as we took a bit of warm food and realized the cars were in ten more inches of water than they were just 10 minutes ago. Brad went out and moved the cars to higher ground. I went to check on the rams. I could not see them anywhere and could not get through the current going through the playard to see where they could be. I returned to the house to find water in the laundry room. Peter lets start moving things upstairs. He got the computers as water started to bubble through the floor and seep in under doors, I grabbed a carpet and tried to put other things up on tables and couches. In 30 minutes we had 18 inches of water in the house and thankfully had an upstairs to go to. A couple boats came into view, they saw us in the window and one came to dock at the kitchen porch rail. we took what we could take. A fireman from district 6 Aaron Fuller and a boatman named Clarence Lupo helped us to see the wisdom in leaving, there was not a lot to discuss on the matter. They carried out our 15 year old dog and our border collie and off we went with a final look back at our barn filling with water, our cheese cave bobbing in front of the barn, and 2 feet of water in the house. We took the boat on a wild ride over our field, over the abandoned railroad track, past neighboring homes, and over to highway 6. We landed on a 300 yard dry stretch of the road, near a bridge. Water was at the bottom of the bridge and large trees racing down the river would hit the metal bridge and shear off any thing that stuck up like it was peeling a carrot. We were stuck on this stretch of roadway until the rescue helicopters had evacuated all those who were not as fortunate as we had been to be on solid land. We were taken, by helicopter, to a shelter at the Adna elementary school and were overwhelmed with the magnitude of what was going on. Stories were told volunteers were bringing in food and blankets, people were trying to feed and clothe us and others. We had friends who lived close by who took us into their home, dogs and all and we stayed there for two nights. We had cell phone coverage but no phone service, the local radio stations went off the air, due to flooding, and we felt cut off. As stories were reported back to us we were numb at the power of the flood. This was very fast and furious, more so than many people had ever seen. It was numbing. Tuesday at 10:00 we tried to get through to the farm. We were blessed to have three friends with us as we attempted to get home. No luck water still going over the road near our home. We could see the barn was standing and we could see the “cheese cave” container was still in our yard. We just could not get there. We heard out neighbors lost all their cows, houses were swept from foundations, ruts made in roads and driveways, water in every home in Adna. Water everywhere. At 11:00 we attempted again and got through. Jan Bradshaw, Jennifer Polley, and Lily Lo were with us as we stepped out of the car and heard a familiar deep barking. Brutus and Jewel the guard dogs were still in the barn. There were some sheep back by the machine shed, standing, Oh Hallelujah! There were a lot of other gruesome sights as well. We assesed first, found several live sheep. Our friends horse, that lives on the farm, was still alive. There was even a cow in the back yard. Our house was standing our barn had several floor boards up but it was standing. The cheese cave was upright with one end perched on a fence post. It was numbing, and still is. We collected at least 52 carcasses from the areas we could get to near the house. Found mud and muck in the house. Muck everywhere. People were able to get through by then and a lot of then slowed to express their heartfelt sorrow at our losses. A wonderful couple who have their own sheep offered to take our 22 surviving animals to their place. They had water and a dry barn, they took our animals in their truck and we cannot thank them enough for this. Others stopped to offer food, water, any help they could. Wednesday we returned to begin cleaning and we must have had 30 people shoveling and mucking and bringing food to us. I am so grateful as I did not even know some of these folks before today. It has been an amazing experience. The reality has not yet sunk in. I have been humbled, I have been blessed, I am still numb and know when the tears come it will be hard. We have wonderful people in this world. There are people in the Dairy sheep world who have begun to offer so much to help us out. There are people in the cheese world who have emailed and called. The Beecher’s Cheese Folks have offered to cave our cheese for us.. We figured it was all lost as we have no functional cave. We thank you all and we are realizing, people are still wonderful, things are just things and I gotta believe there will be purpose on our loss. I will look for that purpose and will need to be reminded to be looking because sometimes it will not be easy.
November 6, 2007 We have been very busy putting the farm to rest for the fall. We finished Markets on the 28th of October and on the 29th I scrubbed out the ice chests, and began cleaning the cheeses left in the cave. We need to brush and turn them frequently. On the 31st Brad and I cleaned out the cave. We opened up the back end and cleaned out any extra matter not conducive to the cave environment. It was a perfect day for this. I was watching the temp and humidity. We like to keep the cave at 85 percent humidity and 55 degrees. With the door open we went to 50 degrees and 86 percent humidity. A good Washington fall day, damp, not wet. It was so nice to complete that job! The cave looks good. We turned out attention to fences, pastures, and leaves. We cleaned out all the old wool from the barn and moved some of the now unused irrigation pipe so we could get to the burn pile. We burned three years worth of wool, about 10 trees worth of leaves and many branches from the trees we cut down last February that we just had not gotten to. Of course we had our requisite burn pile meal, hot dogs and S’mores! What a beautiful evening! Saturday afternoon we began to pick up the wood that has been out there since February. Our irrigation line cuts across this field and there was no getting a truck in there to clear it out. My 15 year old and I moved two pick up trucks full of wood and called it for the day. That afternoon bath was one to relish! Sunday, after church, we attacked the yard! We have a wonderful walnut tree in the front yard that shades the house all summer long. We trucked out five loads of leaves! It was a whole family project. The two younger boys had the job of squishing the leaves down so we could get more into the truck. Three of us loaded leaves, and when full we let the 15 year old drive it to the pile. I laid down on that cushion of foliage and watched the sky and trees roll by! It was a perfect day for raking leaves! The rams are done with there job and will be returned to the Orchard now…till next year. Happy dreams guys! The Ewes will be fed and watched and hopefully get round over the next 4 months. We will get our house and barns in order and have cause to be Thankful for all we have accomplished this month and this year. We have even greater cause to be Thankful for all of our customers, friends, and especially family who have cheered us on in our endeavor! What a busy, fruitful year! Thank you all!
October 24, 2007 We are on the final round of the dating game, the winners are Rams number 7101 and 7103! They will stay with the Ewes until November 4th and then the game is over and breeding season will be done. We sorted ewes this morning and removed all the other rams. We checked the ewe flock and assessed their health and well being. They are looking good, most have been bred, and we look forward to feeding and watching them get fluffy this winter. We will shear and vaccinate them in January and then look to lambing. If we take the rams out on November 4th as stated we should have only two months of lambing this Spring. In 2007 we had three full months of midnight checks. The first month it is fun, the second it is okay, but three was too much. We will try something new this year and will try to breed any non pregnant ewe in January or February. The breed of sheep we own are known for their ability to be bred year round. Typically sheep only go into heat in the Fall. There is some angle of the sun that kicks that hormone into action. The East Freisan Breed is able to breed year round. We may test that theory this spring and see what will happen with a summer lambing. Which also means new milkers mid summer, which means that our fresh cheese supply will not dry up before the end of Farmer’s Markets! I have disappointed so many people who would like to buy a tub of the Fresh Cheese after we are officially done milking therefore done making the Fresh Cheese. Maybe, just maybe, next year we will have a solution for that! We will keep you posted. My last two Farmers Markets will be this weekend. It has been a great year. Thank you to all who have tasted or purchased our cheese. We learn a lot from you and appreciate all the feedback. As you can see one page closes, markets, and The Book for 2008 has begun, breeding.
October 11, 2007 We have been spreading the cheese thin. We have been trotting it up and down I-5 and now shipping it out. Wow. We welcomed October thinking it would slow us down a hair. Our Moreland Market finished at the end of September and gave me an additional day off. The sheep are officially done milking so Brad is caretaking animals and hoping to get to the long list of chores. Whew, were we ever wrong. First we had to prepare for “the Wedge” a cheese festival in Portland at the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University. We had no idea what to take or what to expect. I had a friend I asked to help us who has had experience working in a cheese shop, what a blessing. Portland loves cheese. There were 24 cheesemakers from five states who brought cheese to sample and sell. It was wonderful! We met old friends. Five of the 15 students Peter Dixon taught in a class here in May of 2005 were officially making cheeses and represented at the Wedge. It was huge and fun and we sampled a lot of cheese and met lots of folks who like cheese. We went to Steve’s Cheese shop on Friday for a taste around. Several Stores in the Portland area had cheesemakers to sample there cheese in their stores. We were blessed to be with Kelli Estrella of the Estralla Family Creamery and also with Jeffrey Roberts who wrote the book the Atlas of American Cheese. He has chronicled 350 cheesemakers from around the country and put their stories in a book divided up by region. It is fun to look at and would be even funner to travel with. The e-mails have started to come in this week also. We took cheese to the Olympia Co-op, Whole Foods in Bellevue, The Resident Cheesemonger, and I approached the Tacoma Boys since my Puyallup customers would like a place to purchase cheese after market ends in November. We shipped cheese to Murray’s Cheese in New York City! To Slough Foods in Edison, WA and will send another box to the Executive Chef at Sagecliffe Winery in Eastern Washington. The Chef has graciously given us two recipes to put on our web Recipe page….my winter project. Wow. We will hopefully rest in November… not much cheese left to ship out so it will be nice to work on those wool projects!
September 28, 2007 I was not wanting to write this. I have balked at the confession that we have been selling milk to a young man whose health has been renewed by it, one of the few products his gut has been able to absorb. This young man has been very ill and his body has been fighting the foods he eats. He was literally starving. He came to us last summer interested in learning more about the sheep cheese, the sheep, and the milk. We generally do not sell milk as it can be such a fickle market but he purchased some of the fresh cheeses and was doing quite well on them. He was beginning to thrive. He had color in his cheeks, the dark circles were disappearing from his eyes. He was able to get out and do more….then he did too much…and an old injury recurred and set him back. His mother implored us to sell them milk giving us more insight into the dietary needs of the young man, how could we refuse? So we began to hoard and cut back on cheese making. I unfroze all the whey I had stored in the freezer to experiment making Ricotta and just made Ricotta which became a huge success. Then we filled our freezer, the family retrieved milk and we still had enough to make fresh cheese to the, almost, end of September. We usually end the fresh cheese at the end of August……I am only reminded again and again that God will bless those who honor him. I shared with the mother and her son today that we usually do not have milk this late in the season, not only have we been able to supply the young man’s needs, we have been hugely blessed on top of that. We carried our fresh cheese through September, I had a crash course in making Ricotta, Steve Jones from Steve’s Cheese in Portland has several chefs interested in purchasing this product when we return to production next Spring. What a huge Blessing this has been. One young man willing to explore a product, one young man who only was able to live down here for two months, who found us and was willing to try the cheese and has flourished. One Gracious God who has multiplied tenfold what He has given us and in turn I only pray we can honor Him with our lives and our business…..it is a business, not a service and yet God has blessed this opportunity immeasurably. Wow. Never underestimate…….
September 24, 2007 Markets are wonderful. Farmers Markets have a personality and a life of their own. I was chatting with a customer at the Moreland Market before we opened,a couple weeks ago, and he was making observations about the people who attend certain markets and how they create the personality seen and felt by the customer. I have looked at the vendors, the manager, and the location to determine how each market has developed a unique personality from my perspective. It makes me ponder just how certain markets develop their flavor and how that is impressed upon those who attend. Or am I way out of the line and making this up? Moreland Market is certainly a neighborhood market. People congregate there after work and greet neighbors and friends. Laura, the market manager, has a wonderful board and quite a list of volunteers who support her and show up to help us unload, set up, and also tear down. It has a very easygoing friendly atmosphere and my customer concurred he does not feel as if he needs to rush around to find what he came for. It is a small market, comparitively, but it seems wonderfully connected. The Puyallup Farmers Market, that I just started attending is bright and seems sunny. I don’t know if I am responding to their beautiful logo of a bright sunflower, or the sunny disposition of the Market Manager. Janie manages this market with a smile on her face and a crew of helpers. It is a large market in the summer, I have joined not only in September when things start to slow down anyway, but also during the Puyallup Fair which is the Washington State Fair that exists two blocks from the market site. It is a huge fair. This market promises to be fun. So far in three short weeks there has been a sunflower growing contest, a salsa contest, a dancing contest….I look forward to seeing what more they can provide as entertainment. I like being in Puyallup. I grew up near there, was actually born in Puyallup. It was a rural community then. It still has rural roots. There are a lot more people now but a lot of customers will come to taste cheese and tell a tale or two of raising sheep themselves or having been around a family farm among their relatives. I see a lot of good things to come in Puyallup! Our local Market The Community Farmers Market is home. It just feels nice to be sharing with our local friends and neighbors what we have been doing with our sheep. This is our first year with a market manager and she delivered her first baby the week the market opened. Brenda is amazing. We are well organized, kept informed and if we are lucky and in the shade we can hold the baby while Brenda gets about to do her market managing business. One thing Brenda managed was to organize, plan, implement, and attend a harvest dinner prepared in a local restaurant. She found a willing chef and staff, coordinated donations from market vendors, and planned a beautiful dinner complete with appetizers and dessert. All accomplished on a weekend she moved into their new house and has in-laws coming to see the new baby in a week! Yikes! wait till she gets up to steam after that baby! My Milwaukie Market is on a Sunday, it has no starting or ending bell, the manager is very laid back as is the market. The market just moves along without any apparent hitches. I do not know if the manager, Brendan, projects that feeling on his staff and vendors or if it is just a reflection of the fact that the market is on a Sunday, after a long week, and it just seems mellow. I enjoy this market, which is very busy, but it is shaded with these beautiful trees that make it seem almost like I am selling in a park. Customers are not pushed along, the trees supply ample shade, and a sense of space. I look out from my stall at greenery. The tree that shades me and the beautifully arranged plants of the vendor whose space is under that tree. It is so peaceful and enjoyable, always the best music and entertainment…..just makes me want to go back…..next week. All Farmers Markets seem to have a personality. It is a great place to watch people, and be watched. I am looking at the end of Moreland this week and I will be glad of the break but….will be right back there next May for opening day!
September 17, 2007 We put the Rams in this morning. At least two pens worth. We did our homework Saturday pm between markets. We like to take a lot of things into consideration so we can upgrade our flock. We look at the genetics of the rams and determined which ewes they would complement. We look at the milking records of the mothers of the ram lambs and determined which rams would give our flock the most promising udders in the female offspring. We look at the ewes and determined which ones are done milking and ready to see the ram. We look at the space we have. We have three separate pens to put rams and ewes in….we have five rams we will be using this year. They will just have to be patient and wait. Some of the younger rams will only be breeding 5 or 7 ewes this year. We will need to see how they do. Rhett, is the winner, he will get 22-25. Rhett was purchased last year from a flock in Oregon and did well for us. He is part Lacuane, which is a French breed. His children were noticeable as they had ears reminiscent of Sally Fields in the Flying Nun (am I dating myself with the reference to that television from the 60’s???). Big floppy ears that went out sideways and not up. It does make for very cute lambs. The first willing ewes were separated out this morning. We will be looking for orange or green marks on the hindquarters each morning now to see who had been bred in the past 24 hours. This sure makes it easier to know who is ready to deliver on, or near, what date next winter. Wow. That will be here before we know it.
September 6, 2007 Milking has declined. The ewes are readying themselves for breeding season. The rams are more than ready. Hershey has found his way into the ewe pen several nights in a row. The poor guy has been placed into solitary confinement till we can separate out which animals he should breed. He did this one time before and bred his own daughter, it was not a very good outcome. Hershey needs to be patient and wait till the fences are in place. We hope to use one or two of our ram lambs this year. One has been in with two ewes of a friends and he is more than willing to do the job for us. The rest of the frustrated adolescents are in the ram pen butting heads and strutting their stuff. They look very good this year. We have had a very successful lamb crop. The ewe lambs are also looking well. We have sold off three starter flocks from this years crop of lambs. We hope to hear good things from others who have gotten the bug to milk sheep. People have purchased these animals for various reasons. One man needs a good supply of milk. Sheep milk is the only milk that is meeting his needs medically, and he has done extremely well with the cheese. Another flock went to a couple who plan to add the sheep to their goats and start making cheese in a couple more seasons. I believe they will, this ambition has been burning since we met her in 2005! A few others went singly as people are giving the ewes a chance! It is fun to see who has what plans and how they progress. Our girls have done well for us. We have learned a lot. I hope to get in into print so we will not make the same mistakes again. It has been a full but good year.
August 21, 2007 We were blessed by a very accurate newspaper article in our local paper. It was printed just after the American Cheese Society awards came out and was beautifully done. We hope to get at least the pictures to post. A real photographer, a really nice still life. A wonderful picture of Brad pouring the curds into the molds while making Mopsy’s Best. An added bonus was the email I got this morning from an old friend….the kind of friend that never goes away, even if you have not communicated for a long time….like I have never told her about my four year old! Sigh. She sent an email and one way or another we will get together this fall…right J????? How does life get so busy that we neglect those who are dear to us? But then the other side of the story is when we do reconnect with Dear friends we will pick up right where we left off. Somewhere in the midst of our lives and be comfortable filling in the gaps that need to be filled. Life’s road is full of potholes. Some of those potholes are patched and gone, some are deep and gaping and will be skirted, and other bumps in the road will be given the attention they need. When the deep gaping potholes need to be addressed they will, but in time. That is what friends are like. I have had a lot of customers ask about the sheep, do they establish friendships? Do they miss their babies? Do they remember things? I do not know for sure. They are not people. They are motivated by instinct. The mommas and their babies miss each other when weaned but when they get their grain ration they do seem to settle out just fine. Some to take longer than others….What are they thinking? (Do they Think?) You will see sheep in the field lounging in family groups. Often the Matriarch and several of her offspring and their offspring will lay down in the same general area. Are they friends, or just tied by instinct? What instinct would that be? The sheep exhibit fear, but mostly when their routine has been changed. Shearing day exhibits a lot of fear but it is the noise and the change of environment. They get twitchy at sudden movements, but have become accustomed to the boys who take the .22 to the back field for target practice. They learn to trust…is that friendship or instinct? hmmmmm When I have finished catching on old friendships I may take the time to study Sheep Psychology 101, until then I won’t lose any sleep over this but will provide our animals with a safe, clean, healthy environment to lounge and eat in…..What a life.
August 13, 2007 Don’t wish it away, Don’t wish it away, Don’t wish it away……I long for a few days where we could put our feet up and relax. Perhaps clean the house….Perhaps fold the mound of (clean) laundry that covers the dining room table. Sigh. I sometimes wish I had well-behaved children who could take care of themselves while I make cheese. Who do not call “Mommy, Andrew did this….or John did that….. or WAHHHHHHH……” just after I have rewashed my hands , again, to work on packing cheese, or when the Ricotta is at 175 degrees and I cannot leave it. Don’t wish it away……I tell this to myself over and over. When the missile landed in the pot of cheese…..When we took a detour to the urgent care clinic to remove the splinter from under the fingernail…..When one who is four just wants his mothers attention. They are young, markets will suffer, we need to raise our children first. I think we will stop attending the Bellevue Farmers Market. I just cannot spend four days away from home with Monday and Friday spent preparing for market. Therefore we will bid adieu to Bellevue for the rest of the season. This will give a day and a half to be a mom, to work at readying a four old for preschool. Lord please give the teacher strength. We will prepare the 14 year old for High School!!!! The others will be there soon enough. Don’t wish it away! Life will settle down. This change in Markets will help. Brad will pick up the Puyallup Market in September and October. After the sheep are down to one milking a day. We will not be making as much fresh cheese soon, as there just is not as much milk. It will come to a close. The season will end. It has been a great season but fall is on the horizon. Maybe there is hope for the laundry….at least the next child will have some clean clothes ready to be handed down by the time it is all folded.
7:30 PS: What a difference 3 hours can make, 3 uninterupted hours. I have 6 rounds of cheese cut, wrapped, and labeled for this weeks markets. I have a plan for getting cheese to the Redmond and Snohomish Markets, even with I-5 through Seattle shut down. And….the dining room table has a Maple top, at least on 2/3 of it.
August 4, 2007 Mr. Gregory is off to milk, Peter has gone to the neighbors to weed his bean field. The younger two are still sleeping. This leaves me time to gloat. Three Second Places and a Third!!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!! Our cheeses did very well for us at the American Cheese Society Contest. It is quite a blessing and an honor to receive prizes for all entries sent to the contest this year. They had a record 1028 cheeses entered and over 300 prizes awarded. Our Mopsy’s Best placed second in the aged Sheep Milk Cheese category. The plain Fresh and the Rosemary and Garlic took second in the Fresh Sheep Milk Division, Plain and Flavored. The Feta took a third this year. What an honor. What a boost for us. It was a 6 market week, Brad is trying to get the barn cleaned out, we usually do that in May. We feel behind on all fronts so some reassurance that we are feeling this way for a good cause always helps one to get up and go again. Wow. We will receive the judging sheets in a few weeks and will learn from the comments made how to improve our products. It helped last year, Mopsy’s Best was sent in but did not place. This year she came in at second. How fun to be growing and gaining in experience and continually reach to do better. To do better without changing the product. That will be the challenge. We like the Mopsy’s cheese we make. We would like to age it a bit longer and find a way to keep it from drying out. That seems to be a common thread with sheep milk cheeses, they seem to be a drier cheese. We will see if different washes or treatments will change things. David Schiffelbein at Curds and Whey in Portland purchased a wheel of the Mopsy’s Best and plans to age it with a bit different treatment. I will look forward to his report on how she evolves under his care and attention. That will help us to learn to make better cheeses to bring to Market. Cheese people are amazing. They taste flavors in cheeses like the grass or herbs your animals are eating. They have wonderful words to describe what they taste. Chefs are remarkable in that they taste a cheese and rattle off a recipe to use it with. I am in awe. With help from these folks and hopefully the contest results we will continue to gain in knowledge ourselves. Can you imagine being a judge at this contest with over 1000 cheese to look at. They do break the cheeses to classes and I am sure they only judge so many of the 1000 cheeses but to taste, differentiate, verbalize, and respond to any number of cheeses is beyond my imagination. We were able to attend the Festival of Cheeses in Portland last year which is the culmination of the Cheese Conference. They put out for tasting all the cheeses entered in the contest. Last year we entered a ballroom with 941 cheeses displayed. I figure I was able to try 60 to 80 in the hour and a half I was there……it boggles my mind.
July 27, 2007 What a whirlwind!!!!! We have been market, visiting, contesting, driving, haying, eating and sleeping, and still Brad is milking twice a day and making cheese! Summer is upon us. The best part is my sister and her family being here from the East Coast. They are our summer vacation. They come, the kids love the farm, they have the time and energy to plan and execute day-trips. My kids love playing with their cousins. I even got to go along on a day to Mount Saint Helens. I live 40 miles from the mountain and had not done all the visitor centers yet. Powerful displays! They took my middle son to the beach with them and he had a wonderful day that I could not have offered him. Family is great.
We sent cheese off this week to the American Cheese Society’s Judging in Vermont. Last year was the first year we were eligible to participate and we learned a lot. The cheeses will be judged according to appearance, taste, and texture. It is judged by two judges and the scores are combined. We will then see the results when posted Saturday the 4th but also will receive in the mail in a few weeks the judging sheets complete with suggestions as to what is improvable and what is good! As new cheesemakers what better way to learn industry expectations and standards. I know what I like and I am fortunate to see what customers like. Some times our cheeses change on the basis of the comments from customers, too salty, too much dill, not enough garlic…it is very helpful to sample and learn. This contests is another learning process for us, at a different level…and hopefully a pat on the back, last year the Feta garnered a second place in the sheep milk division!
Markets are going well. I do enjoy meeting people and watching them sample the cheese. Sometimes it is just not what they like and sometimes I could not pay them enough for the advertising they give me as they taste and purr and coo and make wonderful comments about how they like the cheese. It is fun. I did over do and had to cut back. We had a week where we did 6 markets. I was dead tired. I have changed my schedule to going to Bellevue every other week, I will go on the weeks that I do not have an order of cheese to make and take to the Market of Choice in Portland. I do need to be home sometime to see these wonderful children and do that eating and sleeping thing that we still seem to be fitting in. Some days it is a little interesting what my family eats. Some days I just do not know what has been consumed. Some days It is terrible food and I could really kick myself for feeding this stuff to my family when I am surrounded by all the wonderful seasonal produce and foods I find at the Market. Some days I find time to put together all that bartered goods and make something that turns out good. I guess most moms deal with that kind of worry, that is why I hear of a book advertised on my radio about resolving the Mother guilt. I could give myself a good dose of that….if I had the time to consider it.
Life goes on must get the kitten we found in the Hedge to the vet for shots….I haven’t even decided if it is a Samantha or Sammy. must get cheese ready today for Redmond Saturday Market, and Milwaukie on Sunday. My sister has friends from England coming this afternoon and we will give a grand farm tour….they like our cheese!!!! Life goes on, and Andrew just woke up.
July 8. 2007 Thank you Portland! I have so enjoyed the Moreland Market that when the Market Manager from Milwaukie Farmers Market invited me to come I thought…why not? It was a beautiful day in Portland today. Trees covered the Milwaukie Market place and provided wonderful shade. It was nice to be in Portland, you folks really know your foods! I have very pleasant conversations with folks who try the cheese and say right then, “oh, this would be great with……”. My only problem with that is that I get so hungry hearing about your wonderful ideas that my stomach begins to growl. Those Rice cakes I took really did not compare to the ideas passed before my hungering imagination! Thank you Portland for a wonderful day. I look forward to returning to Moreland on Wednesday as it is equally pleasant and friendly!
July 5, 2007 We had a good fourth of July. It was relaxing, busy, but relaxing. I made cheese for the Bellevue Market and prepared a hamburger barbecue for family. My parents came over and were wonderful to bring the dessert. It was very nice, we built a small fire and our pyromaniac lit off some of the fireworks he picked out with his Grandfather. After our show was over I stood on the driveway with the kids and watched some of the spectacular sights explode around the valley high up in the sky. Wow! What a huge celebration! I was struck by what started this holiday. Independence. Our country struggling for what our forefathers felt was right and good. I was struck by thoughts of our service men and women who are at this time standing up for freedoms that we all hold dear. I thought of those who have served over the last 230 years fighting for our freedom and provide us with the liberty to own a home, farm, and start a business. The Vietnam Memorial Wall that is touring the country stopped here in Chehalis at the end of June. What an amazing monument. I struggle as many do with the loss of life and thoughts of could there be another way? What pain, what cost of life and health, what hurt families feel on both sides of a war or conflict or struggle. What a mess we sometimes muddle through. It surprised me at how fast all those thoughts poured through my head. Many people, many ideas, many issues, much to think through. Then I saw a sight that, for me, changed my mind and perspective. A shooting star. It had to be a shooting star, it was white with a tail, it came from behind the house where the river and fields are. It flew straight and true, was not wiggly or making those loud noises, it was perfect. It reminded me of how small and insignificant my human dilemmas can be. It showed me a greater plan for this world. We can create temporary pleasures of fireworks, we create problems, we begin wars. People can create conflicts just by choosing to not listen or care or compromise. For me the shooting star showed me a greater plan. A universe that was built with a purpose. Wars will happen. People will be hurting for all sorts of reasons for many years to come. It is not easy, it never will be easy but we have a purpose and I do seek to follow that plan. Was making and selling cheese part of God’s greater plan for my being…time will tell. For now it is. It is also time to take a moment to thank all those who have suffered for my freedom to do so. Thank you.
July 3. 2007 Creak, Creak, Creak, Creak. Remember the sound of the swing as you glide back and forth, back and forth. In a rare moment of silence John was enjoying swinging in the yard. I sat down, shut my eyes, and listened to that old familiar creak, creak, creak. The swing set has been well used. It was put in when Peter was this age. Ten years ago! But function well it does. This week I was finally able to clear a wheelbarrow full of weeds from the play yard and surrounding flower bed. We only have two markets this week. The Chehalis Market went well today, and Bellevue on Thursday. We will not be at the Skye Valley Family Farms booth on Saturday as they have taken a week to see family, and Moreland Market was optional. If you wanted to come they were going to be there on the fourth of July, but since I have kids at home ready to celebrate, I opted out. It actually has been a good week, cheese wise. The Tractor, though, has been giving Brad fits. It decided it had indigestion from the diesel it ate and has no energy to pull the mower. Hay needs to be cut and baled. Hay is almost past it’s prime and we need to get that going to feed our girls all winter and even into the spring and summer. Brad has done very well under this stress. I would not. He will get the old tractor going, but when and how will be seen. We have a neighbor who will come and cut the hay for us and then with the smaller tractor we can rake, bale and pick up our bounty. Creak, Creak, Creak. I wish Brad had a moment to enjoy the silence, to drink in the pleasure of a little boy flying high enough to touch the leaves with his toes. He will after the Harvest.
June 28, 2007 What a cheese day. Thank you to the couple from Washington DC who went to Steve’s Cheese in Portland looking for the Black Sheep Creamery. (I called my sister to see if it was you, Elaine, but did not get through to her). Thank you, because Steve called us up on Tuesday and asked what we had available. I took samples to him on Wednesday, on my way to my Portland area Market, and he was interested. And, since I “just happened to have a round of our Mopsy’s Best and the Saint Helens with me”, they have been purchased by Steve’s Cheese in Portland and are now available. I am sorry if the couple is now out of the area and unable to get back there….(if it is Elaine, I hope to see you when my sister comes, or sooner, give a call!) Well that was only the beginning as I took my order of our fresh cheeses to Market of Choice. They have 5 stores now that will be carrying our fresh cheeses, Portland to Ashland! Terri, at the West Linn store receives it for me. Since I had some of the St. Helens samples in my cooler she expressed interest in St. Helens and purchased the other round I “just happened” to have available! Then onto the Moreland Market where Steve Jones of Steve’s Cheese was able to visit with his wife and young son. He also liked the Muenster and I hope to get a round to him my next trip to Portland. Thank you all. We are not a big creamery. We still are very new at this. We do have a seasonal cycle to our sales. It is just fun to see how selling cheese can fun and come home to tell Brad how well folks like his cheese. The Muenster we make is a fairly quick cheese. It is nice to make at the beginning of the season since our other cheeses need to age much longer. The Muenster makes it possible to have cheese for the first few weeks of market. This batch of Muenster is quite good, tangy and very creamy! I hope that trend continues, it was delicious yesterday! I probably sample Muenster the most since it is a name people recognize. We have names we have made up for our other cheeses as they came with no identification, or the cheese is a registered cheese, made only from a certain breed of animal, in a certain area of the world between this date and that. I am so amazed at some of the most lovely cheeses in this world and how or when they are made. The book French Cheese, I think from DK press, gives an amazing description of many cheeses that people make all over France and perhaps only 8 rounds of it in a year! Sometimes in sampling it is easier to go for what is familiar. I am the same. Then we try other things a branch out. Some people just go for the strongest, or the mildest, or what is the simplest so they can taste the underlying milk flavors. It is all good, and all fun! I have my favorites and so do my customers. I have tissues available if it is just too unpleasant for the sampler. It makes me happy just to be out there peddling this product we make right here and, I think, are improving each year.
June 25, 2007 Well summer is here but we had rain, rain, rain this weekend and more to come. So much for getting the hay in. Maybe we will wait till our nephew comes out and happen to do it at that time…..hmmmm. The sheep were let into the lower field this past week. We have a fenced pasture out back and then there is other acreage that has tall, tall grass. The pasture is pretty well eaten down but being fenced it is somewhat protected against predators. We have lost quite a few animals to coyotes in the past years. Brutus, the guard dog, is doing well for us! Brutus is doing so well Brad has been letting the ewes into the tall field for some extra good eats. They usually graze along the edges and then come up to the pasture if they feel threatened at all. Typically at the end of the day they are all up at the gate waiting to come in for grain. Sunday in the midst of the rain the ewes came up from the field by themselves. They will find a way through the fence or or around that lower gate if they are scared or startled, or sometimes if they get too wet. It was a wet day. But when Brad went out to milk there was only about half of them out there. I went down to see where the rest were, assuming they were in the field and, not having been startled or wet enough, had not challenged the gate. Down the path I went, no sheep. Out into the field I went, no sheep. Over the lower field I looked, no sheep. Oh my, did they go into the scrub by the river, have they wandered into the slough, prime coyote nesting grounds, did a big truck drive in and collect them all like in Babe?????? (my how my mind goes when I don’t see what I expect) I walked into the tall grass field. Brad had mowed a ring around it so I walked the perimeter calling and calling. Silence. I got all the way around to the back side and there in a small clearing of trampled hay I see some ears poking out. This grass is over my head and my license says I am 5′ 6″. There in this pocket of grass I see about 25-30 ewes lounging chewing their cud. What a wave of relief swept over me. They were not in the Lorry that stole the sheep on the movie! I likened their habitat to a donut and they had bedded down in the hole in the center. I don’t think they could get back out. We traipsed through the tall grass and found the edge of the road. Once they saw a way out they took off at a run. It was beautiful to watch them as they ran around the bend of the mowed grass trail, out of my sight, then reappeared below the gate to the pasture. They charged through the gate, had a moments hesitation, then took off in the direction of the road to the barn. They were going home. I wandered around the rest of the mowed path to see if any other stragglers existed. Then headed in myself. I wondered if they were silent because they were satisified or scared? They sure started making noise to me once they saw me but it was very quiet till then. They were happy to head into the dry barn and find the grain awaiting them in the milk parlour.
June 18, 2007 Wool! I finally was able to utilize those wool batts that Gretchen made for us at Gretchens Wool Mill. Last weekend I got out a quilt top I had made and its backing fabric. I layered in the wool batting and basted it together. It was fun to use the wool. It will take some practice to use the wool batt. I realized I have some areas where there is more filling and some that is less. When I become more comfortable with the fiber I will no doubt be more comfortable pulling and changing the wool. It can be “felted” together by messing with the fibers. Felted wool is wool that has become matted together through friction. If I were to aggressively manipulate the batt I think I would have had more success with my high and low spots. I am a hand quilter. I enjoy making as fine a stitch as I can muster with the quilt, batt, and back I am using. I can tell I will totally enjoy quilting on this project. It has a softness unparalleled by other batts. It is a very thin quilt. It will be a summer quilt. I will need to quilt it closely because of the nature of the wool. I love to do fine quilting so for me that will be a pleasure. My next goal is to create two shams that will go with the quilt. I will layer these with the wool batt and bring them to market in a hoop. Perspective customers would be welcome to try as many or as few stitches as they would like. I think the proof will be in the trying. I think for traditional quilt, especially if hand peiced, a traditional wool batt would be a very unique thing to do….I will know when I finish my quilt, in about 5-6 years. I have so much time to quilt that is about my average length of time for completion, Sigh
June 8, 2007 This is a wonderful time of the year. The days are getting so long. In Western Washington the sun is still evident up til 10:00 pm at summer solstice! It is such a wonderful time to be outside and getting things done. I think the best noise I can imagine is the voice of children calling out to each other in that dusky time of day when you can still see but can hide in shadows if you want to. It is still warm enough to be in your t-shirt and shorts, or maybe us “old folks” don a sweatshirt, but it is a wonderful time of year. School is almost out so even on weeknights I won’t be corralling kids and coaxing them to bed while the sun is still up. Now this semi retired life is very amenable to that. I do not have to put kids in the car at 7:15 in the morning to get them to daycare and school before I go to work at 8:00. The Markets we are doing this year start at noon or later in the day. I miss the evening hours of summertime bliss two nights a week…..but I get to drive home from market in the light of day! Wow this is getting good
June 1, 2007 What a week! A week of beginnings and endings. We officially finished lambing on Monday…we weaned the last 4 lambs from their mothers. It was noisy for a day but they are happy in the lamb pens now. We are milking all the ewes we will milk this year. It just feels different, we are no longer waiting till the babies hit 30 pounds they were there and we are moving on now. The Ram lambs are in a separate pen as they, at four months, could begin to impregnate the ewes. We have decided which ewe lambs and which ram lambs we will keep as replacement animals and will finalize selling off the others. It has a settling effect to it decisions that have been made and plans made accordingly.
My Nursing Supervisor job has officially been handed off!!!!! Except for a few duties I will continue until such a time that they determine who will do the vaccine count, or other things that may arise. It was wonderful today. I did not have to get up and wait to see if the phone rang, that someone was calling in sick. I knew if they did I could choose to fill in if I had the ability to do so but, since I had to make cheese for the Redmond Saturday Market today I knew I could not fill in for a whole day. It was so freeing to be done with the cheese by noon and have everything ready to put in the cooler by 8 pm. I did not work, off-farm, till 6 pm and then do cheese and have to get up at 4am to pack it. I will be up early but not at 4:00! It sort of feels like that time in our lives when we graduated from High School or College. The whole world is out there and all we have to do is find our niche and dig in….there are a lot of niches out there for the finding. It can be an overwhelming thought or an adventure. I feel as if the adventure is about to begin. We start two more Farmers Market this week. I just delivered a load of fresh cheese to the Market of Choice on Wednesday, and have an order for the Blushing Blue Ewe to go to Curds and Whey in Portland. We also hope to try our hand at Yogurt for those who have asked and asked…we will give it a whirl and see how she flies! What a time in our lives, What joy. Stay tuned to see how it all goes. We have two years to make or break ourselves! What an adventure.
May 25. 2007 Markets are so much fun. I had some really good discussions with folks at Moreland. How do you make cheese? It still amazes me! It is all the same ingredients put in a pot and as you manipulate time, tempurature, and acidity you get an amazing variety of cheeses. That is the simplified version. It is based on good fresh milk, we use a vegetable rennet, you add a bacterial starter, and then all the differences in how fine or large you cut the coagulated milk into curds, and what length of time and tempurature you process the curds at. Then if you pack the molds or hang the curds you develop different products. We have a red cave, our muenster and the new Saint Helens do well in a cave of their own. That was another discussion. How do you keep the red cave bacteria in the red cave? Well we add the red bacteria to the cheese in the red cave by washing it onto the cheeses and the other cave we wipe it off the cheese so it does not have the opportunity to grow. It is all an amazing process and the bottom line is that cheese is kind of like a living product and can develop a uniqueness all its own depending on the environment you put it in. Our milk and our caves will develop different cheeses than the neighbors. The PBS special called the Cheese Nun really fleshes out the differences well. I don’t know if it would fascinate others at much as us cheesemakers but it is a great documentary. As we learn more about the cheese we make we strive to make a better and better environment for it to grow and flourish!
May 23, 2007 Pant, Pant, Pant, last week was a successful week for the Black Sheep Creamery. We made it to all appointments and events and the sheep got milked inbetween. Brad has made cheese the last two days and had a visit from Michael Scott of the Market of Choice, located in Oregon. Michael has bee a huge supporter of small farmstead cheesemakers. He visits, encourages, and has loads of ideas and dreams! He was returning from the Cheese Festival in Seattle and going back home to digest all he had seen, eaten and heard! Last night Brad was at the end of the mop up of the frenzied week, we weighed the lambs on Tuesday instead of Sunday, he made cheese two days running, milked, and was at the point of that “vacation is over and we are all getting back to a normal schedule” and the vacuum pump went out……Sigh. It was not an early night for him. He had to hand milk over half of the sheep. The good part of that is that I learned how to hand milk last night. I “just had never gotten the hang of it” especially working full time it just was not on ly list of things to accomplish. Well I had a crash course. I think I was pretty helpful too. I milked three. What a gal…..Off to Moreland Market in Portland!
May 19, 2007 We are having a wonderful cheesey week! Brad went to Seattle to a Chef’s Collaborative get together and met some wonderful cheesemakers from around the state of Washington and many Chefs and People interested in Cheese!!! What a fun event. It was sampling and sharing how they make cheese. We so enjoy hearing other people’s stories and knowing we have company in this “how do you survive milking season?” saga. Brad climbed into bed at 1:00 that night since he still had to milk when he got home at 11:00 pm! Milking is one of the first duties I will learn when I am officially a Farmer and not a Nursing Supervisor. Wednesday was the opening of the Moreland Farmers Market in Portland. It was fun to meet and greet customers from last year and, with our new location two blocks away, meet new customers as well. As always watching people sample cheese is fun. That may sound a bit strange but I love watching peoples reactions. sometimes it is “Oh……WOW” sometimes “ehhh”, and then the next wave of flavor hits their tongue and their eyes get big. Sometimes it is, “Oh, thank you” as they move on. We all have different tastes and treats and I am always curious to watch.
Our Friends Gretchen Wilson of Gretchen’s Wool Mill and Jodi from Bear Paw Quilts came on Thursday to pick up cheese to deliver to the vendors at the Redmond Market. Gretchen also bought a ram lamb to use with her flock of milking sheep. We had some new blood we brought in to spread around our milking community. As always we talked of cheese, sheep, and cheese, and sheep. They are wonderfully fun and Jordan the new name for the ram lamb did well on his trip back to Monroe. Friday Brad went to the Washington State Cheesemakers Association meeting at Beechers in Seattle. What another cheesey event! Met more cheesemakers and as a new guild they are feeling their way into what Washington Cheesemakers need to do to promote what we have to promote! More as that develops. He had opportunity to visit Beechers cheesemaker himself and visit De laurentis store at Pike Place Market where this weekend the Seattle Cheese Festival is in full swing! Another WOW. Today though I head south the the French Prarie Gardens wine and cheese event. We did this last September and knew we would like to return. Today is the day. I am packed up and ready to go to enjoy some of Oregon’s beautiful farming country. Sunday Brad returns to Seattle to be on a panel about how happy animals make good cheese…..I hope ours our happy since I believe Brad is making some good cheese! Well, off to Oregon!
May 10, 2007 We are getting ready….Market starts May 16th in Portland OR at the Moreland Farmers Market. I will be delivering cheese to the Redmond Saturday Market this coming saturday, the 12th. I had hoped to deliver three ram lambs to friends in Monroe, pick up our wool that Gretchen Wilson has processed into batts, and deliver cheese today. I did not make it. I had to work. I was so tired yesterday I fell asleep on the wooden picnic bench in the yard in the sun. My youngest was home with me, the other two were at youth group. John wanted to play. I got up and after shaking out the cobwebs I enjoyed our game. We were stalking sheep, trees, dogs, you name it we stalked it and attacked it. They are boys, I sometimes don’t understand the need to conquer but it was fun. I needed that. Time to just be, just play with a four year old. My friends were more than understanding about waiting for the ram lambs. They will not be in need of their services for a few months anyway. The cheese will get to Redmond by 8:30 on saturday, and I will pick up the wool batts from them in Redmond. It all worked out and I got to play with John. Tonight I will flavor the cheese to be delivered to market. Tonight John’s brothers will be home and he will have someone to play with.
May 8, 2007 Wow, here we are in May, lambing is over cheesing is on!!! Idiazabul or by another name Queso de Oveja. Spanish sheep milk cheese. I love Idiazabul and I hope what Brad made this week is as good as it looks. several months from now we will report on these beauties. Brad made 12 rounds that knit together well and looked exquisite in our new cheese presses that he also made. One hundred dollars of materials from the lumber store and we have some very creative presses that fit on the draining table made from the “Off the Wall Press” plans sold by New England Cheesemaking Supply. It just seems like a lot of things are coming together! Markets start next week, I hope to deliver three ram lambs to new homes this week. They are going to homes north of Seattle, I also have to deliver cheese. I think I will layer the back of the Subaru with a tarp and try to take them up in the car……what fun! Farmer drives through Seattle with three lambs and an ice chest full of cheese. I really don’t want to pay for the gas in the truck for 150 pounds of lamb. We will see. It should be and interesting trip. I wonder if they prefer Classical tapes, Country, or Contemporary Christian?
April 28, 2007 A slow day at work, what a blessing . I am taking a lunch to do this on a 4 hour shift. That is okay. My days here are numbered. I am excited, but scared, to leave a job I have had for four years! Jobs can give us a lot of security if someone else is writing that paycheck. Brad and I are ready to take a risk. The Creamery has lost some business because Brad and I are both so busy we have not been able to follow through on contacts or orders in a timely manner. We will take that risk for two years! Our youngest will be in half day school for the next two school years and therfore we have a plan. Two years full tilt then reevaluate. Three Farmers Market Seasons and see where we go. The herd has been built up, the cheese recipes are being fine-tuned, we have tried and succeeded with new cheeses. It is time and it is exciting to take that step. I will miss my job, but won’t be going too far, they can still call me to fill-in if we have a sick nurse. One hand in one hand out….sounds doable to me.
April 27, 2007 Jordan is well fed and living in the barn now with the sheep. she had a rocky start and had to be tube fed that first morning. She must have gotten away from her mother during the delivery and then momma had another baby to deal with and refused to nurse Jordan. Jordan was small and weak so she may not have tried to hard. Now, at a week of age, she is taking 8 ounces at least three times a day. She is living in the creep feeder. The creep feeder is where we keep free choice grain for the lambs to snack on during the day. The entry is small enough that the mothers cannot get in to eat the babies’ grain but the babies have access at any time. I chose to put her into the creep feeder hoping she would adopt it as home so she is out of the traffic lanes. She seems so small to be out there without a mother to watch out for her. In the creep feeder she will have chance to connect with the other lambs. Sheep are a herd animal and need the company of other animals. Jordan should do well and make new friends. If not with the sheep I had noticed the two guard dogs were willing to watch over her as well.
April 26, 2007 It is hard to believe but lambing is over! 125 babies from 62 mommas. Brad is milking 45 mommas now and will add the next 17 as we wean their babies. We had three lambs die and have had two total bottle babies and several we supplemented as the mothers had triplets. The yearlings did well even our pregnant teenager did okay. We are bottling Jordan but the other baby is taking well to momma she is doing well gained 6 pounds in her first week. What a gal…but in deciding to write a note about Jordan I realized no one had taken her noon bottle so I better go out and feed her.
April 19, 2007 Cheese, we are almost done with lambing so the focus turns to cheese. It has been mixed media for a few weeks so both Brad and I are rummy, if you meet us on the street please excuse the drool from exhaustion. Brad has been turning out some beautiful rounds of Feta, Tomme, Mopsy’s Best, and St Helens. He even made some pyramid shapes of the St. Helens. Perhaps we can borrow the test tube from our son’s volcano kit and let it erupt…or just place an incense stick into it to demonstrate the plume we see coming from Mount Saint Helens, to the south of us, on clear mornings. Yesterday Brad made fresh cheese. I will flavor it tonight and tomorrow, package it up, and take it to Bellevue on Saturday to a Farmers Market Day at the Whole Foods store. It will be fun to have our first market day of the season. We hope to be selling cheese in Bellevue at their Farmers Market starting in June! We have two more mommas to lamb. Greytail, our delinquent teenage mother, had twins Wednesday morning. She did fine delivering but has refused to nurse one of the babies….or the baby is not exhibiting a coordinated suck. I have been feeding her a bottle and she does not seem to know what to do with her tongue when sucking. She looks good, lives with her mother but we will bottle feed her as she just did not seem to get the hang of nursing off her mother. Mom stood very patiently as she tried to nurse. Greytail is young she was not supposed to be bred last fall but twice got into the pen with the ram. She had and 11 pound baby and then a 7 pounder. She is doing well for being so young herself. Now, only two more, only two more, only two more…..
April 16, 2007 Time is flying! Babies are still being born. Brad is making Cheese 3 to 4 times a week, on top of milking twice a day! Lambs are weighed each week and their food is calculated on the total weight in the lamb pen. Yesterday we caught and weighed 2200 pounds of lamb on the hoof. Our methods are simple. I like to keep track of how the lambs are growing so until they are weaned I catch them in the barn and weigh them on their week birthday. I track the growth on my index cards in the barn and transfer the information to the computer. (you can read it if it is typed into a database, the cards have fallen off the shelf into the sink three times so far this season!) We know which mommas produce good babies and good milk by monitering the growth of the lambs. Now once they are weaned they are over 30 pounds and it is my shepherding skills that are being monitered. Our scientific method of weighing these critters is to entice them into a corner of the lamb pen, close it off, and catch them one by one. We weigh ourselves with and without a lamb, do the math and there we have it. Brad is a good man, I noticed that yesterday he caught 7013 first . He was only 82 pounds! I do note that frequently the first weight post weaning shows limited growth but after that I expect them to take off and gain 3-5 pounds a week. This is the first year we have had so many lambs and thankfully they look pretty good! I have a few that seem to be growing slower and I plan to pull them out and put them into a separate pen with animals more their size. That 82 pounder may be taking up more than his share of the feed. Today I am feeling the effects of weighing 55 lambs but it will pass and next weekend we will do it again and recalculate feed requirements. I think old 7013 will be at 90 pounds and we will forgo verifying that number.
April 3, 2007 Lots of babies on the ground at our place and lots of good cheese being made! We are milking the majority of the mothers now and the babies are doing well in the lamb pen, running and playing. I have been struck this week with the notion of Good Acts and Bad or Poorly Thought Out Acts. We are not good or bad people we just sometimes don’t think all the way through what fruit our actions will reap. On the Good list, on the, “oh thank you so much” list is the woman and her husband who took a chance and stopped Sunday am at 1:30. Our gaurd dog Brutus was touring town and they stopped to let us know that he was standing in the middle of the road in Adna, about a mile away. He is big and not car smart so we went and fetched him home. This woman had heard about Brutus’ mother who was hit by a car. His mother came to us from a farm located at the end of a private road….ignorance was not to her advantage. On the “oh, I wish you knew better” list is the kid who drives by the lamb pen yelling and honking to see the little lambs run. Last year we had a white Ford Bronco that enjoyed making my lambs and their mommas run. Sometimes the mommas would run right over a baby that got in her way she would be so startled by the noise. I wish this kid would stop. Yes, they run and they are cute, but they also will run without being scared. I wonder if we all just took the time to enjoy what is offered us would we need to “force” fun in such a way? If I looked at my choices and actions through the recipients eyes would I choose to continue to do some of the things I do???? I don’t know. I tell my children they are not bad children when they do the wrong thing but they do need to learn from their mistakes. I hope I can take a bit of my own medicine and look beyond my own interests. I hope the kid gets tired of his game or looks at the whole picture. Perhaps on the upside the lambs, if they were to escape, would fear the road.
March 29, 2007 I have been remiss at announcing the last births. Ricotta had triplets on Monday, she had three boys. Sigh with a bag like hers we would have loved to see some ewe lambs. Luna followed Tuesday with two boys and a beautiful black girl. They are all healthy what more could we ask for? We are grateful that we will have a few uninterupted nights sleep now! In between these two deliverys we almost had a sad event. I woke up with a start at 4:30 Tuesday morning. I felt a call to go to the barn and check on the animals but the call of that pillow and warm comforter was stronger. I dilly dallied for 20 minutes but went out to find one of the yearlings licking off a new lamb, a very small new lamb she seemed to have done a fine job of delivering by herself so I went to get a panel to use to separate her from the rest of the crowd for some privacy. As I left the shed I heard a tiny little sound from over by the water trough. Lo and behold her first baby had wandered/crawled off down out of the building onto the wet pavement and was wedged between the water trough and the fence! She was tiny, shaking, sopping wet from both the birthing process and the water. I placed her in front of her mother who immediately took to licking her off. What a blessing. Mom was not allowing her to nurse till she got her all cleaned off. Little one kept trying and was getting weaker as I watched. Brad came out and we got mom and babies into the barn under the heat lamp and finally little one latched on and was able to get that good colostrum into stomach. She is doing well now, our smallest baby to date 4 and a half pounds!
March 25, 2007 Luna made it into the milking parlour yesterday. She has been unable to make it into the parlour for days. perhaps a week or more. She is quite large with child(ren). The babies must have dropped for her to get through as she did so we will continue our nightly checks. Ricotta has been making me promises of lambs since last Wednesday. She also is HUGE and seems so uncomfortable. I keep telling her it would be much easier if she would must have those lambs. Then she looks around at the other mothers with triplets and rolls her eyes at me. Well I guess she has a point. We have continued to wean our lambs and it has been a noisy weekend. They are settling down to eat grass and grain and the mommas are giving good milk. Brad has made Muenster and some Mopsy’s Best and will make cheese again tomorrow. Life has gotten busy.
March 14, 2007 I was having a bit of a chuckle in church last Sunday. The communion plate went this way, then that way, then it came back again, or was that a different one. We had the servers so confused, as were we, we all just had to chuckle. How often do we do that? How often do we do something silly, harmless, funny, just because we are who we are. God must look down at us and chuckle. I watch the lambs play, they jump, they run, they will be standing there and for no apparent reason will jump up into the air. I watched one of the quads one night spring up and up again and again…I think she found a new skill and was just jumping for joy. That made me chuckle too. I have alluded to the Popcorn Parade. The lambs will often sleep in a puddle a whole lot all cuddled together then one will jump up and take off running and soon the whole pack is running with the leader, zoom one way then zoom back they come. Then as soon as it starts they collapse in a puddle of lambs again, or go off to find momma for a drink. We also have sad lamb days. We started milking last Saturday. We removed 12 of the early lambs from their mothers and put them into the weaning pen. The first 24 hours around here is LOUD. Babies bawling for mommas, mommas bawling for babies. Then they learn we feed them grain and the mommas get into the routine of being milked and it settles down….I know God looks down on some of the painful things we do or the messes we get into and has great sorrow in His heart. Some of the pain is inflicted upon us and some comes when we are in a time of stretching, change and growth. It is so often hard to get over those rough times. And realistically is it always better in the end? Or is what is better what we take and learn and grow from our experiences. I don’t think my lambs see much past today, or the fact that the lamb pen had greener grass then they were getting. They aren’t very philosophical. I think, though, I will look for the greener grass I am being led toward. If i reach it Hallelujah, if I am still on the way I hope to find ways to grow.
March 7, 2007 We have very nice animals. We had a week off and then on Sunday GiGi had her triplets right there for everyone to see and admire. GiGi is short for Gimpy Girl. She has a bad leg that seemed to give her no problems until December. We think she sustained a spinal cord injury or she was butted on the back end. One day in December Brad found her out in the shed totally unable to use her back end….What to do? We gave her several injections of Calcium that the vet recommended and she did get up on her feet but never 100%. She has been in a pen by herself but adjoining the rest of the herd since then so she would not get run over! Well as it came time for her to deliver we were a little apprehensive since so many of the animals get up and down several times during labor. She did fine, she just stood there and squirted out three 6 pound boys. They will be named Huey, Dewey, and Louey.
Last night Gertrude gave us two fine boys and today a suprise 510 popped out a girl! We had sent her to the back pasture with the yearlings thinking she was not pregnant. Karen found her today with a 9 pound baby girl that was less than an hour old. Both look wonderful and are in a jug in the barn gettin special treatment.
February 26, 2007 Holstein had twins, nice and easy as we knew she would. A boy, 10# and a girl, 12#. She took right to cleaning and they were up bouncing within the hour. We are at 90 babies born out of 45 mommas, 45 girls, and 45 boys. Perfect. Well almost, We have about 15 more ewes to deliver, and we have lost three lambs. It is not unusual to lose some percentage of babies each year. It brings to me the word/concept of Intervention. I prefer to watch the animals and let them have their animal behaviors. If one is coming to harm I will intervene, or if it is a birthing situation that is not going well we will intervene to see what needs to happen. We have had three breech babies this year. Breech is not as critical in sheep as humans but you really need to get the baby out in one push so its first breath is not sucking in amniotic fluid. We saw feet and waited for the push that would send the lamb out to his/her middle section and pulled the head out cleaned the mouth and mother took over. I like those interventions clean, easy, mother takes over, I feel I have helped not hindered the process. Another mother broke her water Friday evening so we watched her and waited for her to go into labor…..nothing, nothing, nothing. So by Saturday evening, Meg, being a nurse felt we should call the vet. With humans if the water has been broken for 24 hours we intervene. Was it time to get more aggressive? The vet said to check her, she was not dilated but I could feel a nose exploring my finger. The vet then said to wait until she was in labor and if she starts to push and dilate with no babies go in and see what is happening. Well Sarah delivered three girls all on her own within the hour. Nature took over. Did I jump into a situation that was doing what was right or did the stimulation produce labor. If so it worked, if not the minimal intervention was not anything that kept mother from doing her job. Another mother refused her babies, would butt them off if they tried to eat. She delivered well and cleaned them well but did not want to let them get close to nurse and would butt them pretty hard. We intervened, we tied her head up and let the babies find the teat and eat. We had to do that every hour or two for the first 12 hours and then mom settled down and realized they were hers and fed them just fine. Now with the babies. Our first intervention gave us a bottle baby. Thorne was not being fed by his mother so of course we intervened. Sam was to weak to get up to eat so we intervened and did what we thought was the most we could do and he did the rest. He lives with the sheep and we visit both those babies three times a day. We did have two that died who started out well and then just plummeted. We tube fed the little girl every two hours one night, she was strong enough to get up on her feet but did not make it. Was she just not getting what she needed? or was there a genetic link to her death because her brother did the same thing and we found him the next day. We feel we must intervene when we can but we must accept what happens. We have one more bottle baby that lives with his mother. his bigger siblings beat him to the teat. We have intervened with a snack three times a day and complement what mother gives to him until he is big enough to fight back. Thankfully Holstein did all she needed on her own, as most did. We like to watch and care for our animals but let then do the rest. We will wean the babies at 30 days, or 30 pounds, and begin to milk the mothers but until then we will let them be under weekly weights and watchful eyes.
February 23, 2007 No new babies overnight. I think all is well after the big push yesterday. We had the opportunity to sleep through the night and it was wonderful until 4:30 am and I just could not sleep any more…too much? I went out to the barn to check on everyone. All was calm, peaceful, and as it should be. Holstein and Elizabeth were the only ones who seemed uncomfortable. They are two of the next to go. Holstein is actually due today and it would be a blessing to see her go. She historically has given us triplets and she is huge again. Belly about 7-8 inches off the ground, although she is vertically challenged and of stocky build so in her non-pregnant state she is close to the ground. She is part Coopworth which is a stockier, woolier breed than our East Fresian sheep. The Fresians seem much more delicate, long legged with narrow feet and a narrow face. Holstein, her mother and sister are excellent milkers. Their wool is different too. We had our Friend Gretchen, http://gretchenswoolmill.com/ , and her friend Jodi, http://bearpawquilt.com , visit us yesterday. Gretchen has been a wonderful help getting us into the dairy sheep business in the first place. When we needed to find milk for our son we visited her, tasted some of the milk from her animals and were hooked. She has given us resources, both professional and personal, and helped us locate Jerry and LouAnne Craner where we purchased our first animals in 2000. Gretchen is not only talented with milk and cheese, she is a fiber person. A spinner, and has been a great encourager to get me going on spinning. Alas, I am a quilter and have quite a few projects that are being totally neglected at this point in time so I have not made that jump, yet. But Gretchen and Jodi have teamed up to develop wool quilt batts. I am so excited to see that the wool off my animals will be prepared to create a product I can use for my own hobby as well. I recently purchased a wool batt to use in a quilt I am making for our family room. Gretchen and Jodi have developed a product that may be superior to that batt in some ways. It is not needlepunched, or felted which means it can come apart in layers and I could use one layer to create a finer quilt with more fanciful stitching, or use more layers to create a springier, warmer quilt. These fine women took a Suburban full of our fleeces home to work with and see what can be created. I hope to be selling wool batts at market this summer and see what all the other quilters think of this product. Gosh, that means I may have to piece a small quilt to use as a tester, that is just sooo painful to have to go quilt! All this rambling because I think Holstein will deliver her babies today. Her wool is just a bit different than the rest of our animals and I wonder what Gretchen will work up with one of her fleeces…..lambing is almost over, will I have time for my hobby?
February 22, 2007 I stand corrected. As I was in the house typing my earlier note Carrol decided to pop out two ram lambs which brings us to an even 50:50 ratio boys to girls. One more February momma to go and then the March due dates should begin.
February 22, 2007 Since the last post we have delivered 60 babies, 14 in the last 24 hours! Well, the mommas have, with occasional help from us. We have a grand total of 86 lambs born so far, we are almost neck and neck male to female ratio, 42:44, with a 200 % lambing rate. Could not be much better than that, except perhaps a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Which we did have, one night of wonderful sleep. Our friends came to spell us….we slept. They camped out in the barn, with a radio in hand to call if anything untoward happened. What a blessing, What rest in the middle of all the commotion of lambing. My heart was full of Thanks and Joy as I walked into the barn Monday morning and saw two lamb jugs fuller than the night before with two mommas and their twins! All the after care was done and complete, health babies, healthy mothers and I had slept through it all! I just had my cup of coffee for me, and a bottle for Sam and Thorne. I even took the opportunity to leave those bottles on the table and when our friends woke up they made sure the milk got into their hungering mouths. It has been fun and busy, will need to get the camera fixed to post more pics!
We have separated the older lambs and their moms to another pen and brought in the mothers who are due in March. We only have two left who are due in February and 6 in March. It will slow down now and we will progress onto weighing and monitoring growth of the lamb crop and readying the mothers for milking. We will begin March 10th. That seemed so far away and suddenly it is close enough to smell.
February 17, 2007 What a day it was! We had 13 babies yesterday and stories to tell. We started with a pro. Gouda popped out twins, licked them and nursed them just like she has before. Beautiful baby….boys. Then Corvette got into action and delivered a girl, then Feta delivered a boy, then Corvette delivered a boy, and Feta delivered a girl. Then, while she was nursing her two babies Feta delivered another boy. I have not yet seen such a sight. Feta looking back knowing she had another one to clean off but not wanting to disturb the two that were already nursing. Brad placed the last one in front of his mother and she started to clean him too. We got all the babies and their mothers into lambing jugs to bond and I got to go back to work…yes, all that on my lunch break. Brad called about 4:00 to let me know that Salt had dropped two out with her head in the hay feeder, and at 5:00 when I was trying to tie up things at work Brad calls again to say he has three in labor at once! Missy decided to have her own out of spite. She had tried to steal Feta’s first baby. A mother who is close to delivering will do that, she will move in and begin licking off the other mother’s baby. We had noted that and sent her out of the barn so Feta could deliver her babies in peace. Missy was out under the awning laboring when 515 came to join her. Then 515 went streaking into the barn and 320 came out acting like she would like to deliver as well. Poor Brad. 515 was wild, it was her first baby and she just took off running not sure about what was happening. She missed the childbirth video when we showed it to group. Brad caught her and separated her from the flock into a small jug where she delivered her boy. Meanwhile, Missy, who is white, had delivered a white ram outside. And 320, who is black and also in labor, was cleaning the baby right along side Missy. That has happened in the past where two laboring mothers will share a baby until the second mother pops out her own lamb and surrenders the first to its rightful mother. Well, Missy delivered a second white baby and 320 delivered a single black ram lamb. There are two mothers and three lambs and to those of us watching the white mother had the white babies and the black mother had the black baby. Those babies were cleaned and nursed by two mothers and if we tried to move one mother with here babies into the barn the other got all upset and came along as well. We jugged them all together and after we tag their ears we will set them loose and see who goes with who. I don’t think the mothers will read the numbers on the tag any better than they could identify their own by color, but it helps me to know who is who.
February 15, 2007 Someone had to do it. One of the ewes was more than expected to throw a black lamb. Wooly did just that on Tuesday and she is a beauty. Now you can imagine with a mom named Wooly what the babies look like. Lots of curls and fluff. The white twin sister had brown tips on her curls, the black baby has nice glossy curls and bright black jelly bean eyes that are expressing curiosity already. How can we be called the Black Sheep Creamery if we don’t get any Black Sheep? We have in the past used our black ram, Hershey, extensively. We have a lot of genes in our flock for the black wool and skin. The Fresian breed is know for having sparse wool on the head and it can be especially thin over their forehead and ears. This leads to a lot of pink peeling ears and faces when the sun comes out. The black animals do not burn the same way. We have also noted those first days of sunshine some very pink udders coming into the parlour. Holstein, mother of Hershey, has a beautiful black udder that has never been noted to burn the same way her sister’s has. So now we have a new pair of sisters who are black and white. A wooly pair. A very cute pair, but then I will say that about all of them.
February 13, 2007 I woke up early this morning and thought I had better check on, Sam, our bottle baby, I was worried about him. In an effort to help him realize he is a sheep, not a person, Brad let him sleep in the barn last night. I did not know if he was strong enough for that. So I got up and warmed his bottle and trekked out to the barn. First glance, the newest babies were doing well in the stalls with their mothers. Second glance, no posturing among the expectant mothers that indicates we are laboring. Third glance, a small bundle curled up against a wall, quiet and still. Oh my, I called out his name and the name of the other bottle baby. What relief Sam jumped right up, ran over sucked his bottle down in no time at all. He even started to suck down Thorne’s bottle since he had not yet gotten up to eat his morning meal. He was demanding more milk as I left the barn. This is the little lamb that only took an ounce or two at a time for me yesterday, the little lamb that seemed to not have enough energy to suck, was well on his way to becoming part of the “popcorn parade”. More than likely having him in the house he was fed too often. He was too full to suck. Now that he is four days old he will be fed four times a day. We will feed him a prescribed amount of milk and he should learn to eat the creep feed soon. I already found him trying to nibble on the hay in the feeder. Sam should do just fine. He is a lamb, he lives in the barn, he will learn to jump and play with his friends, but he will come when we call him since he thinks we are mom. I noticed one of his brothers stand and listen attentively to Sam the Lamb’s cries as I left the barn. He will have playmates
February 10, 2007 Has it really been a week? Not much going on in the beginning of the week, took some pictures of some very fat mommas! Snowflake really had to struggle to get through the chute into the milking parlour for grain, she was huge! She now has an explanation for her girth, all in white with some speckles, all four of them. We had our first quads, and they are beautiful. Twenty seven pounds of baby came out of our Snowflake! She did a great job, the first one was out and almost dried off when I came out to the barn at 1:30. He was tiny but got right up and tried to eat. Momma was very patient and even though she had another baby to push out when this little one tried to nurse she stopped and hunched over so he could find the teat better. It was a precious sight because the large belly that hung within 7 inches of the ground was still in the way of the little one’s head. He really had to want to eat to find the teat. But sure enough I could see his little tail going in circles which is our sign that he was getting the milk he desired. Momma then got busy and pushed out a second and then a third and the fourth! Her tongue was just a flailing away trying to get them all cleaned up, all the other babies in the barn came to pay their respects and got in the way. Their mothers would come, check out the commotion. and try to call them away. Poor Snowflake all four of the babies were attempting to go in different directions and she was already expected to be entertaining guests. I stepped in to help with crowd control. Needed to place our bottle baby in the creep feeder and lock him in. As a true bummer lamb, he attempts to bum a drink off of any one he can…even a mother who is still delivering or is attempting to find her four willful children. I called Brad on the radio, we got the mother and all the babies into a small pen called a jug so they could bond without all the interference of the crowd. We noted the second born baby was not getting up, he was shaking and had his head turned back. We made the decision to tube feed him some of the mother’s colostrum and warm him up. We brought him to the house and put him in a box near the heater. At 3:45 we went back to bed and realized we had done all we could do and would find what we would in the morning. At 5:30 when the alarm went off I actually didn’t get out of bed. I waited till I could wait no more. I went downstairs not wanting to find what I feared I would find but before rounding the corner into the kitchen heard a very loud demanding bleat! Where is the food? All is well with little Sam. He is back in the pen with his family. He will be a bottle baby since that is what has been introduced and momma has three others vying for two teats. At least he will have a the life of a sheep but the diet of a cow….most milk replacers are made from cow’s milk!
February 3, 2007 We had a busy week and a busy day. The week went along very fast. I got all my little lambs weighed and noted one needed some assistance. Rose who is a nice momma was having trouble with her boy. She was butting him off and he was not eating. We had placed the three of them, sister too, back in a stall together and all seemed okay but in the open area she would butt him off and he was not gaining as he should. We checked the teeth and had filed them down but they have kept erupting sharp enough to make mother not want to feed him…so Andrew and I have a baby now. We will bottle him three times a day and he has caught right back up with the crowd he was born with. The lamb now has a name. He will be called Thorne.
Today we cut down three trees in the orchard. We purchased some slave labor at the church and got a priceless gift to help us with our pasture problem. We have an orchard of 15 to 20 walnuts huge trees, well overgrown and we only harvest nuts from under the three best ones. The rest of the trees provide a lot of shade and leaves that kill the grass out underneath. We had hoped to cut out several of these trees strategically in order to provide sun for the grass and shade for the sheep. We purchased a wonder, a former logger who could lay those trees right down where they were meant to go without harming the others around them! The orchard looks more open already and we will hope to get in some grass seed to provide next years lambs with a safe enclosed field that is best protected from predators. The church was earning money for their Mexico Mission Team. They are taking 17 people from our area to build homes and a church in an area that could really use some help. We were happy to help them out but we were extremely blessed in the process! Isn’t it true God takes what little we give and makes it immeasurably more!
In the midst of all the blessings we had today we welcomed another ram lamb. Sugar had a baby today. 12 pounds 7 ounces! He is beautiful!
January 31, 2007 Coffee Bean, who is named such because she is a beautiful black Ewe, gave us a big beautiful ram lamb late last night. She delivered without assistance but needed help finding the poor guy as he had crawled into the space between the barn door and the wall. That is the precise reason we go out to check the barn in the middle of the night. Had our little boy spent the night in that hole he may not be here today for my boys to name. Now the mother who is shiny black and bright eyed is named Coffee Bean, her mother is named Americano after that wonderful concoction that keeps us awake and moving….The ram lamb? Well he is named Vanilla Bean Frappucinno. He is the decaf sort. All white and full of calories….11# 11ounces at birth!
January 27, 2007 We were blessed with the company of four young ladies today. These young ladies came to work a day in the barn feeding, watering, shoveling, watching, waiting. They purchased two Ewe lambs from us two years ago and they were bred this year. We had high hopes the girls would witness a birth before their own animals went into labor. This way they would know what is good and what is not. Well, they missed the first lambing by 10 minutes, they were able to see the care the momma and babies need after a delivery but alas the signs of imminent birth were missed. Rainbow had given us a boy and a girl just before our helpers arrived. The girls and their father waited all day, finally they decided to do their grocery shopping before they went back home, about an hour away. Wouldn’t you know it both Revlon and Rose went into labor within a half hour of their departure! Well, cell phones can be marvelous inventions since we told the father we would call if anything looked promising before they went home! Two deliveries, two sets of twins and four very happy girls. We even had a bit of a show for them…Revlon dropped a baby on the floor of the barn but was so intent on minding what Rose was doing she left it there! We had to catch her and place here baby under her nose so she would take the poor cold little girl and that was all it took, she forgot all about the other momma and they each delivered a healthy set of twins.
January 24, 2007 Grace had her first babies today and the first ones of the year. We welcomed Butterscotch and Xavier during the evening hours. Momma did a great job and made a great start to lambing season.
January 23, 2007 We had a visitor on Saturday who brought us a picture she had made of our flock. My favorite picture was this one of the Rainbow sheep, her parents had told her we had a momma-to-be named Rainbow! I Think she was hoping Rainbow would look like this one! I think I like her version almost as much as the one in the barn…..who still has not had her babies!
Barn checks in the middle of the night have begun. Since friday we have set the alarm hoping to find a momma in labor in the middle of the night….but no, they are chewing their cud peaceful as anything. It is a wonder to go into the barn at night. All the animals seem at peace the light takes on a golden glow against the brown wood and the gold hay. All that matters at that time is that we have our own nest on the ground and are ruminating. A few will be up eating, several will be laying down with their neck stretched out sleeping soundly. Not many get up for a scratch on the chin but are willing participants if I enter the lambing floor to get a closer look at what is going on. A look that with some hope will be come a laboring ewe from a placid cud chewing “I have no cares in the world momma-to-be”.
Okay, so I am impatient, that is not a newsflash for those that know me. The lambs are my job here on the farm. We both attend labors as needed but the follow up weights and any medical care Is my role as much as possible. I love this season. I weigh each baby each week to be sure they are getting all they need. I will be sure they get their shots, their teeth are not too sharp, we do dock tails so we make sure all heals well. I am ready! Bring on those babies! Slow down! The first actual due date was January 22. I must remember with sheep we do not want early babies, we have never had an overdue animal, nor had to induce labor. I believe they have this figured out better than me and are humoring me as I go out to do my barn checks.
January 3, 2007
New beginnings, newly shorn wool, new straw in the barn, almost time for new babies! The Shearer came last week and we got almost half of the ewes sheared. They look good, some of them are looking quite roly poly. It was a great day! He did a wonderful job. Today he will be returning to get the rest done.
The animals are able to return to the barn once they are sheared. We try to use the barn only during lambing and give it a rest from May to December. The sheep relished the new bedding and seemed to almost snuggle into it. On closer look they were eating it. All the feeders were full but they were happily chewing what was close at hand…maybe that is why I like to hang out with them whenever I can…they just take it easy and slow. We had a good look at what has been growing under all that wool and have determined that Rainbow will be the first to deliver. She will be a first time momma so we will make all attempts to be there at her lambing time to be sure all goes well and she takes her babies just fine. Hot Rod is close behind but she has had lambs before so her udder development is far beyond the first time mommas. Grace is close also. We will keep you posted, lambing should be a couple weeks yet. In other words it is not time to start the midnight barn checks. We have been graining the ewes in the milking parlor since mid-December. Brad is daily able to assess who is getting closer to delivery. When he has one that has begun those pre-delivery changes we will make sure we set eyes on her every two hours round the clock. So our new year starts with a lot of new changes. New hope, New clean wool, New fresh bedding, anticipation for New lambs and what the New Year will bring. No New years resolution though. I may go sit on a bale of straw and look into that after we shear the last 40 animals. Or I may sit on a bale of straw and fall asleep.