December 27, 2008
Hooray, Brad finally had a day he could redo the pictures on the website. We have had many persons e-mail that the Barn picture we had as a background was too difficult to read past and finally he has had time to replace it with a beautiful picture of a young round of cheese. At last, some new visions. We have been busily upgrading , changing, and renovating our computer arsenol at the house and office. I have a aged mac that I like for the accounting program we use. I recently spent three days on dial-up to upgrade the operating system to the highest level it could go before replacing it. Well my highest is not enough to use with the aircard we got ourselves for Christmas. The aircard works fine on our son’s computer and the large PC we have in the office for the family to use. My desk is cluttered with old mac’s that don’t wear out fast just become dinosaurs. I will have to figure out how to get the musings from my comfortable mac to the web site but that will be my problem for the next few months. I did look at a new laptop and was filled with computer lust but it would be the first domino to send the stack rolling. If I do that then I would need a new accounting program and a new payroll program but the aircard would work in a new computer and could be networked on a wireless system……In time. For now I will enjoy the new pictures on the website and will look forward to Brad making more available as with that aircard we will forsake the dial-up internet connection and things will hopefully move along much faster. It is so interesting what can be done and accomplished on the internet. I have found the musing section of our website fun to do as well as useful. When the flood hit and we had so many friends and family to give information to at once it was very helpful to expound on progress and needs via the musings. I started these in 2006 when we had the website up and going for several months and nothing changed…..I really wanted the wesite to be enjoyed by those who were interested in finding out more about our farm, our cheese, and our animals. I started the musings in response to the questions and experiences I had at the Farmer’s Markets I attended. It was a way to give people a glimpse into what it takes to put cheese on the table. It begins several months before that cheese is unwrapped and enjoyed by our customers. Did the Chicken or the Egg come first? Does Breeding, Lambing, or Milking begin the process of making cheese? I have a few ewe lambs in the barn who were not big enough to be bred this year, as we feed them and watch them grow we will be planning to make cheese from their milk in 2010. These musings have been my little way of inviting people to share the process of cheesemaking from thier home, in a manner that has become such a major player in our lives. The computer! I am working on bringing my mac up to the new era of aircards and we will go to a wireless network with a router when to plunge is taken to upgrade to the next level….and in a matter of months that will be outdated as well….so goes life but it all works. In the meantime enjoy or lives as we can share them, lambing starts soon, shearing sooner and we thank you all for your interest! December 22, 2008 Merry Christmas to all. We are loaded with snow here in the Pacific Northwest…..too much for many places as traffic jams and clogged airports abound. But on the farm it is beautiful! The sheep all have their winter woolies on, they have the barn to snuggle up in so they are faring well. The Dogs are playing with each other in this powdery white stuff and having a blast. The cats have chosen the house, even Black Cat, who moved home for three months last winter in the cold, has moved home again. About three days before the snow fell she moved back into the house from the barn, animals seem to know before we do what to expect. The animals are faring well. We are too. Lots of cocoa and snow ice cream for the boys. They had a toboggan run around the driveway and into the back field. the Christmas lights along the driveway are about 3 inches deep now and show a pool of light below the white snow. Best news is that we may get that White Christmas we always sing about. It is beautiful and fun I remember one from my childhood and not many others….except for the years we lived in Spokane. The sheep are thankful that our shearing date will be January 10th. One year we had a frigid cold snap three days after shearing and they were cold…..not so cold they did not venture out and lie down in it but their little tails shook when they were in the parlour for their grain. We are at the time we need to start graining the ones who are to deliver early. That means they all get grain as they are greedy girls and they know what clanging gates in the milking parlour means. They line up and immediately start bawling for food. Graining the pregnant ewes gives them just a bit more energy and protein for the growing baby and for the ewe lambs who are pregnant it gives them the energy they need to grow and also grow their babies. Hopefully a single. It will be much easier to grain the girls after they are sheared, in full wool they often do not fit through the parlour gate. It was made for the width of and average ewe not a pregnant one in full wool. Often those who cannot fit through the gate before shearing will be fed a pan of grain in the holding pen after all the others have made their way through the parlour and back to the barn. It is a one way chute until the end and Brad reopens the in gate and those that are left behind will be shooed back into the pen that leads to the barn and their buddies. This is a sign that lambing season is soon to be upon us!
December 2, 2008 Tomorrow is the anniversary of our flood. It does not seem real. It seems to me that the flood was a long time ago. A lot of people and projects and animals and funds have passed under the bridge. A lot of gifts and hugs wellwishers and backbreaking volunteers have been here, blessed us, and gone away again to bless others. We have had a successful farming season. We have met a lot of new friends. We have said goodbye to some of our sheep and hello to a multitude of new ewes who have blessed our barn with their presence and soon with their babies. We have limited furniture in the house but a new refinished floor throughout and a new patio going in. (“The place where the mud is to stop before coming in to the house” says mama bear!) We have a comfortable home full of our family and cats and anyone else who tags along with the children. The kids’ friends know that Meg can always cook more spaghetti so as long as you eat noodles come on in! I knew the anniversary was coming. but months are so sneaky. If your event is in the first part of the month it is upon you as soon as you turn the calender page to the month you are to be living in. Yikes. December 3rd is here tomorrow. But, God is good and here we are with our family, our herd, our friends and numerous new friends. I have been blessed with three part time jobs in November and that helps us to get along till lambing season is here. Just around the corner….or onto the next page of the calender.
Dan Schreiber, a reporter for our local paper, was just here for his anniversary trip. He was in the boat that rescued us from our porch last December. He was interested to know how much help came to the rescue of those here in the river valley. He remembers looking at all the destruction last winter and wondering what all these people would be doing with the mess left in the wake of the flood. I think he has a lot of respect for the community and how it pitched in. He had only lived in this area a month prior to the flood last December. I had lived here many years and have been respectful of what the community has done for it’s own. I hope others affected by the flooding have the same impression.
Ours is a much greater community than Lewis County or Centralia/Chehalis. Good wishes and monetary help came from all over the country. Groups from Oregon and all parts of Washington came to physically help out. It is humbling to be the recipient of so much good. It was my pride tripping me at first when others came to help out….”oh, we can get by”, or “things aren’t that bad”. Oh yes they were and we would still be mucking out the kitchen with a rubbermaid spatula if those of you that came to help had listened to me. I learned to accept other’s kindness with more grace. I think as opportunity knocks to help others it will be out of my fullness and not just my excess that I can give to others. It is easy to give when you “have”. But to give and recieve when you haven’t is a whole new feeling. I have witnessed that generosity in other cultures time and again and now hope to spread that, gracefully, in ours.
My anniversary digression has me considering what each and every one of you has done to make our lives better after the flood of 2007. My challenge to myself is to never forget the generosity of others and to look for opportunity to share with those around me. My mantra’s for the year have been God is Good and People are Great! Things are just things. God has a plan and it is bigger than me. And, you can live through anything for a short while.
Thank you one and all and may God Bless this next year with all that He has planned for our lives and our world.
October 27, 2008 It has been a glorious fall here in the Pacific Northwest. The colors are splendid, yellows, oranges, reds, browns, gold, greens. The evergreen backdrop makes the colors only more vivid. The sheep are also full of color as the rams have been marking the ewes as they are bred. We are on orange and blue, meaning the clean up rams are in the pen. Then breeding season is almost over and now we all settle in for winter to get fat and happy and look forward to early winter and spring lambing. Don’t we wish. The list goes on and on. The to do list that is. We all have them and isn’t it just amazing that to get to working on the job you want to do you have to back up and play dominoes with other chores and jobs till you free up space, time, or materials, to get to what was supposed to be at hand! Whew! on Saturday I wanted to clean out the laundry room to make way for painting the trim boards . I needed help as the last few items to move were bigger than I could do alone. So to move the extra fridge out to the garage, we had to move the flooded cupboard to the burnpile but, the truck would be needed for some of the moving. But, the temporary fencing was in the back of the truck and we wanted to put the fencing up in the barn so we had to sweep out a section for storage. But, then the dinning room table was in the way out there and it needed to come back to the house to be sanded and painted and then we could move the fridge and extra shelving out of the laundry room. We all have those little jobs that you have to play dominoes to get to because of all the other projects in the way. but we did it!~ I painted some more trim boards for the laundry room, the coat racks will be hung this week so we can get those off the floor and perhaps we can extract some order in the house…….It sounds good.
We have had a beautiful fall season. I wish I had been able to be at market it has been so pleasant but, we have gotten a lot done around here without the constant pressure of readying cheese. We needed that this year. Brad has disced and planted the mudded over pasture, He is now reseeding some of the regular pasture with the leftover seed. We have had some trees felled in order to get equipment in to remove the leftover mud in other areas in hopes of planting grass in 2009 so we will have lamb pasture in 2010. The sheep are in the barn yard now and will be till the new grass really takes hold. Unfortunately the muddiest part from the flood mud was the most used pasture we have. the sheep are okay with being in the barn but the guard dogs get a bit of cabin fever. They will adapt. The farm has been busy this fall getting ready for winter and praying it is a normal year…..no excessive rainfall, no log jams to dam the river. It has been almost 11 months since the December flood and it is a distant memory, I hope it stays that way.
September 21, 2008 We are well on our way to our 2009 lambs. Not all by our choice but these animals have their own agenda. We had selected a group for the ram, Jordan, to breed and had selected other ewes for other rams to breed. Then there was that night….Jordan and several of his ewes jumped the fence and ended up with the milkers, several were marked that night. Brad separated them all again and took the two separate groups out to the pasture and fenced them in…..before he could get the electricity fence plugged back in, they jumped the line again. One more time separating and one more night of mixing it up and Jordan’s harem is now the bulk of our flock. Which is really okay for breeding purposes. Jordan’s lineage is reportedly a good one and he is totally unrelated to our flock. His dam and sire were purchased by us and he was the only surviving part of the family. He survived only because he was sold to Gretchen Wilson in Monroe and after the flood she very generously sent him back to us. Jordan is a beautiful ram, a bit ornery, but he settled down when in the ram pen with all the others. Currently though, he has his harem and is a bit more protective of them. That is what rams do. Brad has to watch him carefully when he is in the pen as Jordan will take a male presence as a threat to his kingdom. Jordan does not seem to mind my presence in the pen as much, but that does not mean I don’t keep my eye on him. Thirty-eight of the ewes have been marked. Jordan can’t go anywhere without his following, 4-5 of the ewes in heat will stick tighter to him than “flies to honey” and when they are not cycling they dump him. Alas, I really don’t think he minds as the next group, cycling into heat, is already at his side. This means we are almost done with breeding the older ewes. I have about 20 ewe lambs we will breed but not until October 15th. We will then give one of the other rams a chance to prove himself. I have a beautiful ram lamb who I have admired from the start. He is out of one of our good milkers and sired by a ram from one of our best milkers ever. I had hoped to use him this year on some of the ewes but will put him in with the ewe lambs he is unrelated to and see what we get. The truth will not be known until we start milking their babies in 2010! That is why it is a bit scary only using one ram this year on our ewe flock. He has reportedly good milking genes but nothing proven as we had not milked any of the offspring of his father. His mother was young yet and not a wonderful milker…..time will give us the answer and the genetics of the mothers will play their part in the breeding game, or gamble….
September 7, 2008 This morning I was blessed with one of those heartwarming sights a mother will remember. John has been on a mission to sleep out in the pasture and protect the sheep. He has explored the ideas that coyotes and wolves will avoid human scent and not bother him but would hunt the young lambs. John has wanted to be a good shepherd. Yesterday he took his bags of supplies, he had a bag with clothes, and a bag with carrots, cookies, and a bottle of gatorade. He put his insect book into his backpack and set out to find a camping spot. I let him go thinking he would be back in 15 minutes or so. After a half an hour I sent Peter out on the Quad to check for him. Peter said he did not see him…..”did you really look?” Peter went back out and found John’s campsite under the car canopy we use as heat and rain shelter for the milking mommas. John had just come back to the house to get his”reinforcements”, his supplies. John got a sleeping bag and a pillow along with his father and his brother Andrew. After we made him stay in the house to eat dinner he led the charge out to the field and set up camp with Brad and Andrew. We placed bets on how long they would stay out there. The mother with little faith expected them home about 9:30, Brad figured they would last till 10:00, Peter placed his bets on sometime after ten. All was apparently well at 9:00 PM as Andrew came in to the house to get cookies for him and his father, Johns’ supply was not enough for all three. I came down At 6:00 this morning to find Brad in checking e-mails. He came in about 5:30 and the two boys were still out sleeping. I took my cup of coffee out with me at 7:00 and there they were. Two heads sticking out of sleeping bags, with books, flashlights, and camping food remains around them. They were lit from behind by the rising sun that was just creeping in under the canopy far enough to find their sleepy faces. Circling the canopy were about 15-20 of our milking mommas with dewey backs wondering just how come they had been evicted from their shelter, not quite sure they wanted to share space with the smells and noises that they found there. The boys had a good time. They ate their cookies, made shadows with their hands on the roof of the canopy after dark. They slept well outside, Brad did not. A fun time was had by a couple of farm boys on a late summer night. John is already talking about doing it again. I think we will dodge tonight, he has his first day of preschool tomorrow.
August 31, 2008 Market Season is over for us now. We had our last day in Puyallup yesterday. We don’t have to calculate how much milk to pastuerize for Tuesday today, I won’t have to find some time tomorrow on the holiday to make cheese for Tuesday market. No driving. We got a new car on May 10th, we have put 10,000miles on it in 3 and a half months. We hope to button up the farm for winter. All those things that are wonderful to do like weed the garden and cover with a barrier so it will be ready for planting in the spring. Like cover and protect exposed water lines. Work on mud abatement. Start school. Things will change, hopefully the energy level will continue so we get things done.
Brad will still make cheese. We hope to continue with some of the fresh cheese sales for about a month or two. We will be milking about 2 gallons a day for a while and can make 25 gallons worth of fresh cheese every other week. To do my markets it would take 36 gallons a week. So by dribbling it out we are better off selling to stores. Besides I can take cheese to stores and drop it off and leave for home in time to collect kids from their respective schools.
School starts. This makes for a totally different structure in our lives. It will be good to be done with markets in order to structure our lives around school. To have well fed and rested children. I admit I usually get lazy in the summer and let the younger kids sleep in. It is about the only time I have alone in the house or if I need to make cheese it is nice to know they will come find me when they wake up. Also by letting them sleep things stay cleaner in the house. How kids be come tornadoes upon waking is amazing. Don’t turn your back if you are cleaning house because all the hard work will never be noticed. Sigh. I had a friend drop by market the other day her kids had made a day of her cleaning efforts futile. It is tolerable sometimes but somedays you just need to see the fruit of your labor and it has been gobbled up by little hands and many toys. Sigh.
Change is good. Change is needed. We have had a very busy year and this change will be welcome.
August 24, 2008 Well the decision has been made. We are done with Farmers Markets for the year. It was not an easy decision to make when considering how wonderful our customers are, how kind, generous, and faithful they have been. But we only have 5 rounds of Queso left and 7 rounds of Mopsy’s the Black Sheep Tomme and more Mopsy’s will be ready at Thanksgiving time and if Brad uses the milk in the freezer from Tin Willows Farm for a couple batches of Queso de Oveja and Mopsy’s Best we will hope to have those ready in time for the Christmas season. I will say my husband has done an extraordinary job this year balancing the milk and cheese. We started the season with one pop cooler and added another when the cheese came back from Beechers (where it went after the flood till we could house it again). Then there was the milk. Freezing some, using lots, keeping some on hand so we always could have fresh cheese for markets. The pop cooler caves were full and the freezers were full at several points and then an order for fresh cheese would come in and would aleviate the congestion, or Brad would make Feta which takes less space to age…..it was a dance. It has been a season of dances. Avoiding mud. milking, reporters, volunteers, more mud, more volunteers, cheesemaking, more reporters, markets, study groups…how to respond to disasters, how to help move animals to safety, how the USDA can best help farmers. It has been a huge season in many ways and it is time to slow down. I was going to go through September with our markets but when we looked closely at the cheese inventory we realized it is time to be done and finish all the outside projects that need work before winter hits. The sheep who have been milking so faithfully are down to one milking a day and the new ewes will not enter the parlour for a couple more weeks. This will enable us to keep fresh cheeses at Market of Choice and at New Seasons Markets and as I said we will have Thanksgiving and Christmas Cheese. But school starts next week, it is time to focus on our kids and take the time to enjoy them and all they will begin this fall. We have one who is trying Golf and will need to get in 50 hours of driving to get his license, one going into fourth grade with a new teacher and all the excitement a budding scientist finds. (I did veto the snake going up stairs in a jar, sorry not all moms are willing to have snake habitiats in boy’s bedrooms). We have a preschooler who will need transportation midday to school and lots of encouragement to listen and follow instructions, as well as continue being creative. It is a fine line to walk but if have faith he will find it. So we will say goodbye to our market friends this week and look forward to next year when we can focus on cheese and marketing and hope the flood recovery will be minimal!
August 17, 2008 We have arrived at the dating game again. It is the time of year we evaluate the rams and the ewes, look at the genetics from whence they came and decide to where they go. Which ram and ewe will be matched up to create wonderful babies and next years milk. Brad is still milking 38 but only 24 are milking twice a day. Our milking outcome is dwindling but we are hoping to see some lambs begin dropping in the next few weeks so we will know the prognosis for our hope of additional milk and the prospects for Christmas cheese. What an interesting year this has been. We have faced and accomplished a lot of things along with the help of too many people to count. Our animals look really good. The ewes who survived the flood were wonderful mothers and ended up being very good milkers. The 10 ewes that Deb Bender sent have been excellent milkers and we look forward to seeing how their ewe lambs progress. They are too young to breed this year but we will keep them for the dating game next year. With so many donations for ewes we were able to purchase in 12 ewes from Kate Posey from Eastern Washington. They are beautiful animals and have really added a lot to our milking crew. The genetics brought in by these animals will be a boost to our flock as well. We have an additional 17 ewes we purchased from Promised Land Farm in Wisconsin. They are the ones who we hope to see lambing over the next several weeks. They have some Dorset blood lines in them and some Polypay. They are a stockier lot, the Freisians are much more dainty with thin legs and narrow faces. These girls have stockier legs and are thicker through the middle sections. The linebackers versus the running backs, but all part of the same team. These lambs may be a better sort for selling as meat. They were bred by Alex our ram who is also of the stockier build than our Freisian or Lacuanne type rams. We will need to take all of this into our planning. We hope to have two lambing seasons—with a break in the middle. We will pick the ewes to breed and put them in with the ram for 34 days. Sheep cycle every 17 days so the hope would be our ram boy would have two opportunites to make his mark on our growing flock. The ram will truly have opportunity to make his mark as we place a marking harness on his chest and when a ewe is bred she will bear a mark from the color of the crayon our ram is holding in the harness. If we get our act together and find our ram boys after the first 17 days we will be able to change the color of the crayon which will tell us if a ewe was marked and bred or just marked and not breds so she came into heat again. All these marks tell us a lot about the abilities of the ram and the fertility of the ewes. It gives us a date the ewe was hopefully bred so we know when to expect babies. It is very nice for the winter lambing seasons so we can tell which nights to look at which mommas. Not fool proof but better than not knowing at all who to look at. We have reached another season. The cycle of lambing, milking, breeding, and then we start over again. Breeding leads to the anticipation of lambing which leads to the anticipation of milking which brings on the breeding season. As we evaluate each ewes performance both with lambing, raising her babies and her milking output we will make decisions about the next step. And usually by this time we are ready for a change. Maybe year round milking is not in our best interests…..we will see. Check next year to see if we do it again
We sat down last August and figured out 75 ewes to breed, 22 pregnant ones survived the flood, and here we are planning on breeding about 75 again. God is good and people are great. We have had an exhausting year but are still standing, thanks to the grace of God and the help of many hands. Our animals look really good. Thank you all!
August 7, 2008 The winners were announced last weekend at the American Cheese Society’s Cheese Contest. A lot of Northwest Cheesemakers did very well. Congratulations to all. Even though we had not entered any cheese this year I got all the nervous twitter as Brad was reading off the names and awards of friends we have made over the past 4 years: Mt Townsend Creamery, Estrella Family Creamery, River’s Edge Chevre, Beechers, Rogue Creamery, Tumalo Farms, also winning were Washington State University, Tillamook County Creamery, and Willamette Valley Cheese Company Many good folks making fine cheeses and it is great fun to see them being successful! We have a new sheep milk cheesemaker in the Northwest! We expect to see great things from Le Ferme de Metras, home of the Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese. Stephen and Amy have made it to market after a long haul getting their farm going and perfecting many things. They will debut their fresh sheep cheeses in Seattle at Metropolitan Markets and at tow Farmers Markets. It is good to see all the hard work come to a new level. I remember feeling like we had gotten to base camp when we had all the facility in order and began making cheese. Then there was the mountain to climb but it is good to use muscles and stretch a bit and Stephen and Amy have proved themselves up to the challenge! Good luck to them.
On the home front we have had another new baby, Ione. We have a complete kitchen I just need to find the time to gather everything back and find a home for it. The Cheese packing room has electricity and water to the edge of it. Hay is cut and baled, and we hope to get it into the barn today. Markets are busy and full of good people. Sometimes it feels as if we are moving at 110 miles per hour but it will all come to an end and we hope to have a restful winter.
Ione is a new baby born way out of our regular lambing season but it has just been a year for strange things and practices. We have about 5-6 more ewes who look pregnant and will deliver between now and mid-September. Monday we went to Ione Oregon to purchase some sheep milk from Terry Felda at Tin Willows farm. We got back late and when Brad went out to feed the lambs and check the sheep there was a new lamb in the pasture. A little girl out of one of Deb Benders ewes. (whose stock by the way is excellent for those looking for dairy ewes!) I went out on Tusday morning to feed and see the new baby…..she was nowhere to be seen. The paddock the sheep are in is only 300 feet by 150 feet I could not see a white speck anywhere, mom was grazing peacefully which was pacifying yet puzzling. What on earth did she do with her baby? I stepped over the fence to go find out and Brutus, the Gaurd dog, came to greet me….leaving behind a small little lamb that he was taking care of while its mother was grazing. Momma and baby were reunited and Brutus was rewarded for doing a great job. All is well
July 20, 2008 We feel we are finally looking like a real sheep farm again. Even better than before! The sheep are now grazing the hay field. They must walk out there before and after both the morning and evening milkings. That means the Shepherds must walk out there as well. It is a good thing. They get exercise and so do we. The pace is not always fast, and not always slow. There is time to enjoy the trees and the greenery. The sheep have not been “herded” this way before. We usually lead them out and they find the big pasture. This was okay but the back field that was flooded is now a dust bowl. I cannot understand why but the sheep tend to graze on the dust. Perhaps because anything that emerges will be young and tender and more to their liking but why the dust? The sheep look much better out in the green pasture and the Gaurd dogs are staying with them and hopefully doing their job. They are not wandering, that is good. We hope the Gaurd dogs are doing their job by just being in the field and leaving their scent. We hope they do not get challenged by the Coyotes but the last week has been very good.
This new pasturing plan is one we have been thinking we must do for a while and never got to the point of doing it. Again the flood has nudged us over into doing something good. We purchased several of the semi-permanent net fences from Premier Supply. not cheap but well worth it. I set up a paddock by myself last night in about half an hour. The benefits are huge. We can rotate pastures like we should have been doing all along with sheep. We can move fields and make paddocks to fit the number of animals in that group. We have five groups of sheep now: the milkers, the non-milking ewes, the ewe lambs, the rams, and the smallest lambs I still feed the 12% protein mix to. It is very good to have them all separated out so we can save grain by getting it to the rights ones in a smaller group and not feeding a large group in hopes the ones that need it get their share. These fences will allow us to keep the electricity on. Our back field has a perimeter fence that was always being overgrown with brambles and branches. It would draw off the power and that is how the gaurd dogs got out so much Jewel even respects this fence. She is usually the one who gets out and leads Brutus astray. The coyotes could get in through the old perimeter fence and we have lost 4 lambs this year to coyotes. They usually were the ones that fell asleep in the grass and mid day the mommas would come to the barn for some shade and the lambs were left in the field. The gaurd dog stayed with the mommas and was in the barn when the lambs were taken. It is always hard to see the little ones go so we hope this new system will keep the right canines in and the wrong ones out!
The shade issue is big as we shear in the winter and now the wool is about half grown. We purchase some carport type structures to use as shade and hope to get some black shade cloth sides to increase the shaded area. We will be putting these on skids so we can move them as the sheep move from paddock to paddock. The plan is a good one it just needs to come to fruition. We set up the carport, the lambs use it daily in the warm sun, the dogs use it all the time. We have yet to get the skids on as we have not needed to change pasture yet…..so the wind took one on a sail yesterday. I came home from market and there it was in the gully. We took off a couple legs, rolled it onto the roof and dragged it up the slope. We rolled it over the fence, almost onto the backs of the curious little lambs and it is now staked to the ground. It all looks very good, peaceful, pastoral. It is nice to see such a huge picture of progress. God has blessed this little farm and we pray it in return honors Him.
July 18, 2008 Summer is here and life has been busy and it is good. Mopsy’s Best has made her appearance. We tested her a couple weeks ago and the cheese was good but not great. It had matured a couple weeks longer now and is getting all those wonderful full flavors my customers have been asking for for weeks. Vivian and Nickie from Issaquah were here with their Church, Faith United Methodist Church. They volunteered to be tasters. We cut into a new round of Mopsys Best, first one from this seasons milk and both of them gave us the thumbs up for it to go to market. This church has been sending waves of volunteers all week Susan, the organizer, came down a couple weeks ago to scout out the needs. We had carpenter type men cut the doors in the new structure on Tuesday. I had two women paint my Kitchen. ( The cabinets, stove, and Island come next week) On Wednesday we had Electrical type men here who ran wires and readied the new building for the addition of the cooling unit for the cave to the panel and put their heads together on which way the wire should run to a box. Three women painted the windows and door frames, and cleaned in the Lanudry room. I think I let them down, not knowing how many were coming I was not ready and I was cheesing away as I had big deliverys to Portland on Wednesday. Yesterday the youth came and worked on our fence. The mud has grounded out the wire on the road fence and the curious little lambs were getting out. Not good. These kids weed whacked and dug out the wire and got the load halfway cleared. The fence was charging last night when we checked it as we tucked our mommas and babies into their fields for the night. Today? yet more cave work. We really hope to get this up and running….soon
The cheese this week has been going fast. We sent another round of cheese to Tilth Restaurant in Seattle. This time it was the Queso de Oveja, our Spanish cheese. I always want to sneak into a kitchen and watch the preparations and reactions to the cheese. We also sent two rounds of the Queso de Oveja to Beechers. Tuesday was the big make day. We had 40 gallons of milk to make into fresh cheese which was 111 pounds of cheese. Whew. Deborah saved my life on this make. She comes on Tuesdays and makes my Wednesday cheese while I am at the Community Farmers Market in Chehalis. She came about noon and was there till 11 pm! It was such a blessing to have her help…I certainly wasn’t a ball of energy when I went out between 7 to 10 pm, kinda rummy after a hot day selling cheese. Wednesday I took a load of cheese to the Arbor Heights New Seasons Store in North Portland. They were excited to see it back. I also took packages of fresh cheese to the Market of Choice in West Linn which will end up in five of their stores from Portland to Eugene. Then on to the Moreland Market for my Wednesday Party in the Sellwood Moreland neighborhood. The car was so packed I had to use the luggage rack for my market canopy. What a good thing it was! One more market this week and then some time to visit with my sister and her family here from Virginia.. Onto Puyallup this Saturday!
July 6, 2008 Farm dogs are all different and all the same. They have to put up with a lot of varying in routine and a lot change in their lives. Our Alberta, Bert for short, was with us for almost 15 years. She showed up on Peter’s first birthday, a stray. She hung around for a few days, I thought she had come with the corn cutting crew but they did not know who she was. Peter being a one year old did the obligatory sticking his finger up her nose and squishing her with hugs and she did not mind. After a few days and no one claiming her I took her to the Vet. She was healthy, about three months old, and full of fleas. We took her home washed her up and she was ours. The next day two boys rode by on bikes and said she had wandered away from their house….I felt crestfallen. They were quick to add that she was one of a litter of 13 and they were going to have to take her to the pound so we could keep her….Whew. It turned out her Border Collie looks were artificial she was part Husky and part Golden Retreiver. She was our watch dog. She barked to announce anyone’s entrance to the farm. Even the wind some times. She was about 75 pounds and all bark with a wagging tail. The Golden in her gave her the best attitude you could want in a dog. She followed the tractor when Brad would disc. She ate plenty of varmits doing this in her younger days. She was always ready to go. A walk to the river, a trip to the field. She kept the deer away from my garden she very rarely came in the house. She would shiver and act scared until we let her back out. The Husky in her kept her warm at night and even when we felt bad for here being out on cold nights but she still did not want to be inside. Bert was always there, almost always. The first two sheep and one goat we got were pastured in our orchard to eat all the many climbing blackberry vines and to mow. The goat liked what was outside the fence better than inside so we had to electrify the wires. Well chances were that the first day it was electrified we entertained a huge thunder and lightening storm. Bert got zapped by the fence and we could not find her after the storm was over. Not to fear she was at the neighbors house hiding in their garage. For several years every T-storm we had Bert was to be found at the neighbors seeking refuge. This wore off after several years as she got older and became a bit deaf. Bert put up with two more kids over the years. She watched several cats come and go and a few other dogs. She did not get along with the first Border Collie we had as they were both Alpha dogs, they had brutal fights when Patch got off the chain. We found a good home for Patch, Bert stayed. Bert got to go to the Pediatric clinic and be sewed up by our Nurse Practioner after one of those fights. The NP needed practice stitching and our Bert was a very willing volunteer, she just lay there while being stiched. Bert got older and deafer. We began to check behind the car each time we backed out as she would lay out in the sun gathering heat in her black fur. She could not hear and would not move when the car started. I ran over a foot last fall and it scared me many times to think I could have hit her. We got old Bert into the house during the flood, she left with us in the boat, was airlifted in the helicopter. She spent a month at our minister’s home this winter. She came home with us after the new year and spent the next three months inside, except to go out to releive herself. When Brad had the pnemonia they kept each other company downstairs. She bagan to spend more time outside as the weather wearmed up but we could tell she was getting older and less able to get around. She finally was hit by a truck. She laid down under one out of sight and did not get up when the motor started. She was a very good dog and the boys buried her out by the river with Momma cat. Farm dogs, as with all dogs, have a lot of changes to accomodate in their lives. Season changes, household changes, many different purposes on the farm. Good Farm dogs adjust and are ready to go no matter what the occasion. Bert was like that. Just a happy to be your friend kind of gal. We say good bye but what a good life she had.
June 29, 2008 Hallelujah the beginning is in sight! We have things going into the house that belong. Yesterday we had a small but energetic work group from the Faith United Methodist Chrch in Issaquah here. We scrubbed the walls in the kitchen, moved in the new refrigerator, and planned for a return trip to cut doors in the new mobile structure, rewire around those doors, and plumb in the new sink. There is the hope that we will begin anew in our new packing plant and move our cheese back into the large cave where they belong. Hallelujah. The house looks wonderful, empty. The ladies and I considered the fact that having an empty house is not such a bad thing. It won’t be terribly comfortable come winter or in those moments we get to sit but it sure looks nice. The refinished floors are wonderful. The kids have discovered sliding in socks and enjoy the bare rooms too. Maybe that is incentive to put furniture back in. The other incentive is that our nine year old seems to lose socks all over the yard and perhaps if sliding is so much fun he may find it appealing to go out and find all those socks and put them in the laundry basket where they belong. One could only hope.
Markets are busy and are fun to attend. I sure enjoy sampling cheese to people. I really enjoy changing peoples opinions of Sheep Milk Cheese. I see the look, “It is what!” I had goat cheese once, emphasis on once. The difference between the two species can be discussed, the difference betweeen the taste of the milks. Sheep milk is very rich and sweet even as compared to whole cow’s milk. It makes wonderful cheese because of all the solids it has. It makes a very rich creamy cheese that we sell flavored or plain. It sometimes works and I sometimes get someone to try this new thing for them. And most frequently they like it. I enjoy that. I think as I read and see more of the food related issues we have in this country we all need to diversify our diets and to eat moderately. We do not need to indulge in a huge amount of anything but all things in moderation. it is easy to be dependant on beef and cow’s dairy products as they are most prevalent but diversification has a place. I am intrigued by Victoria Gilligan at the Wild Coho Wine Cafe in Port Townsend. She is planning to use all seasonal products in her menu planning. The menu changes daily and seasonally. It would make sure that diversified products are served and consumed. I think of how I feed my family and how many times i reach for the same vegetables at the store because they can be shipped in from all over the world and are available to me year round. This leads to fewer different nutrients being served to my family and possibly poorer nutrition. I think of the fresh summer produce that is full of vitamins if served close to harvest. The root crops that are stored well have a lot of different vitamins and minerals our bodies also need. Our protein sources, our meats, (beef, pork, fish, poultry, lamb, goat, venison,…) cheese, eggs, nuts, all those things we consume and would be wise to vary. What a wonderful time of year to try all this out. I came home with Kale and Fava Beans this week from some of the markets I attend. We’ll see what this week brings.
June 22, 2008 We have moved out of our home one more time and will now move back in on nice newly sanded floors. Ron’s Hardwood, a local company, did a beautiful of repairing, sanding and finishing the old fir floors in our home. They had done the front room about 5 years ago and that floor did fine having water on it during the flood. What a job, we finished moving out last monday morning in our pajamas. My goal is to move back in tomorrow and move only those things that actually have a home. If in 6 months they are still in the garage do we really need them any way? Sigh, ask me about my resolve for this in January.
We were in Puyallup this weekend for Meeker Days Celebrations. We did our usual spot in the Saturday Farmers Market and stayed for Sunday. Puyallup is a fun place to go to. People get into the spirit of things and seem to really enjoy getting out and enjoying the day, it was very good weather too, a bit chilly, not cold, with patches of sunshine. It was a fun weekend.
This coming week we will be preparing fresh cheese to deliver to both the Market of Choice in Eugene (via the West Linn Store) and also New Seasons in Portland. These stores are wonderful fun places to shop and are looking to sell local products. Local is an interesting concept. It is good to eat local, the carbon footprint of foods can be huge. We are frequently asked at market “where is your farm”. Sometimes from the reaction I am not sure if we are considered “local” or not. I go to Portland and will travel to the greater Seattle area. Both cities are about 100 miles from home. We have also shipped cheese to these cities if it cannot be combined with a trip or other deliveries. If it takes me longer than three hours to get to a market and get set up it is not as appealing to me. We can be encouraged to go farther afield with the proper enticement. Like the wine and cheese events at French Prairie Gardens in St. Paul Oregon, fun decreases mileage in my estimation. We have chosen to do our local market since we live in such a wonderful place and we like to have a presence here among friends. We have done the Moreland Market (Portland, OR) since it opened in 2006 it was the first Market we went to outside our local area. We tried the Bellevue Farmers Market, which was beautiful and well run, but it was an afternoon market and traffic was not to my liking. We also tried the Centralia Farmers Market but found the customers who stumbled upon market while antiquing in the many shops were not inclined to purchase a perishable product.There are plenty of closer markets to our home but I am not sure how to plan or approach the time and travel it takes. I did the Milwaukie Market (Portland, OR) on Sundays last year and it was not only a very nice “foodie” market but a wonderful shady lot. I hope to return when we have more product to sell. It was there I had my first glimpse at “local” as two women would come buy my feta cheese, which they liked, but they had another sheep milk feta from Isreal that they really liked but did not want to buy it from so far away. Local. Olympia has a huge market but we could not sell there as we have been wholesaling and they did not want vendors who were already wholesaling as new vendors. Longview has a couple nice markets as does Tacoma, Des Moines, and several cities inbetween. I have not the nerve yet to do a Seattle Market. We are not that big of a Creamery and they seem so big to me. So I wonder if customers in Portland and Puyallup think of us as “local”. Hmmmm. What do I think is local? I guess my criteria has always been time. If I can get to a market and be set up in two hours it is okay for me. Much longer than that and I get tired before I get there especially if it is bad traffic, it wears me out. Hmmmm.
June 19, 2008 How did we get to almost summer? What a wonderful time to be back at markets and thinking cheese, meeting old friends, making new. Each question that is asked about sheep and milking and cheesemaking is a new way to share our farm with our customers. It has been fun to get back to this life. It has been awful busy though. We now have a Pacific Mobile Structure in our yard. Right where our friends from the Poulsbo Lutheran Church helped romove a shed and four trees. Our neighbor Bill Reisinger took the dirt away with his excavator and truck and brought in rock. Within two weeks of finding this structure we have it in our yard. The Truck driver from Pacific Mobile helped us to move the cave into position and with one whack from Bill’s loader in was buddied up next to the new mobile building. As soon as we can cut the doors between the two, plug in the electrical and get the refridgeration connected we have a cheese packing room and our cave will be humming and waiting for cheese again! Wow, It all went so fast. It has been a huge feat and we could only do this thanks to the multitude of hands and prayers and donations that have come our way. I thank each and every person who has made this possible because if it was left up to us I would still be in the corner of our kitchen scooping out mud with a rubbermaid spatula. I can only pray for those in the Midwest who are being inundated with water at this time and hope they are blessed as richly in the process. Our flood pales in comparison to 1300square blocks of a flooded city, wow.
It is June and the milk has begun to decline. We did get 4 newly freshened ewes to keep us going and the ewes from Deb Bender have begun milking. They look full of promise and we hope to carry fresh cheese to market all summer with them. The cheeses Brad began to make in April will be taken to market in July and it will be so fun to share samples with all those customers who have been waiting for Mopsy’s Best to return to our cooler. The cheese needs to age at least three months. It is tempting to cut into it earlier but we know from experience it is just that much better if you wait. Sigh. Brad made Feta a couple weeks ago and we made Mithzythra. It was taken to market as “Greek Noodle Cheese” since is was the consistency of Ricotta. It was good though, we tried it our ourselves before we took it to market in Puyallup. It had to be that market it sold at as I am located next to a Pasta Vendor, Pacific Pasta Works, and it was a wonderful pairing.
It has been busy but fun, School is out for the summer and life should be full of those late evenings with the kids playing outside making “summer sounds” wrapped up in the cooling air after a warm day…..we will get there I just know it! It has been the coolest June on record here in the Northwest but summer will come. The kids don’t mind anyway, they play outside till they are blue. That is what being a kid is about isn’t it.
May 29, 2008 What a wild ride! What huge progress we are seeing as the weather moderates just a hair here in the Pacific Northwest. We have had some wonderful workers here…we have had wonderful workers period…but at this point in time it has been jobs that are onto developing the next step and not just clean up, clean up, clean up. God is Good. We have been blessed with groups who supply the skills needed at just the right time. Some men from Marine View Presbyterian Church have taken on finishing the bathroom and laundry/mud room. They put up a base coat of yellow paint and the next day two women from Silvana Lutheran Church took on the Sponge Painting. I have the most gorgeous knock you out of your socks, wake up in the morning laundry/mud room you could possibly imagine. These women like to paint and given this opportunity to learn sponge painting was not a problem, Evie is an oil artist….Wow just what was needed at the time it became available. God is Good and People are great! There were lots and lots of jobs finished and it is nice to see progress. This past Memorial Day Weekend we had about an average of 20 people from the Poulsbo Lutheran Church come and help out. We saw a shed come down, four trees, the cave was gutted, even the cement was hammered out from between the rails in the floor. The irrigation pipes were cleared of mud…..I cannot even list all that was accomplished. Things I would consider a huge undertaking for Brad and I were accomplished in 3 hour stints. The group leader would come check in for the next job. Wow. We had two days prior found a mobile structure to bring onto the property to house the cheese packing plant. This will be a “temporary” structure on wheels that we can elevate to a level above water line. This unit will come with vinyl walls and flooring, a heating and cooling unit, and electricity. We can add plumbing and there we have a cheese packing room. The shed and the trees had to be moved, I had hoped to have this unit moved in by August…..I can now reasonable look to moving in by July 1st! Woo-Hoo! I think our marriage will be better for this, It has survived the flood, three kids, building a business, but working almost on top of each other in a 16 by 16 foot room with 5 additional pieces of equipment in it…that may put us over the top, especially as the temperatures warm up.
Lambing has continued this past week. Deb Bender’s Ewes have done well. Most have lambed out on the pasture and are very good moms and the babies very sturdy. Too Sturdy. One little baby, a week old, was missing Wednesday afternoon. I was at market and Brad called me to let me know the black ewe had two girls but that 8060 was missing. He and John had tromped the back field twice looking for it and by 8:30 it was nowhere to be seen. The new babies were in the barn Brad had to milk so at 9:30, just getting home from market, I had to go look. Out to the back field I went with the only working flashlight on the place, John’s small 2 AA battery size he bought with his Christmas money. Out I go taking the “trail” around the perimeter of the field. The dirt portion was fine, but no baby there, then the knee high grass. I listened well as I called hoping to hear just a peep to guide me in the right direction. Nothing, silence, just the breeze in the Cottonwood trees. I enter the tall grass, I am committed to the course now. The course I am not “on” just the knowledge that if I continue I will meet the river or find the flock’s favorite point where the grass is all eaten down. Batting the 6 foot tall grasses out of my way using the breast stroke I tried not to think of how utterly impulsive this was and avoided thoughts of coyotes. I made a lot of noise. So much I probably would had scared my little lamb friend if it could hear me. I found the point where the grass has been eaten down and could walk and listen again, but all was silent. I came home unloaded and got the kids in bed. Brad says it was harder to think of losing one little lamb than all our girls in the flood. I think it is just the single hit versus the numbing jolt. We were saddened but the momma milked out well and will be a great asset to our flock. The next morning as I was feeding the lambs in their pen this momma and all the others with lambs were yelling at the gate to go out to pasture. I thought on the outside chance that baby would come out of hiding if she were still there, her momma would be the only reason to do so. I let these four mommas out and they hustled out to the pasture. Momma was in the lead I could see her calling and running back and forth, I wanted to cry at the frantic note in her voice, the kind we get when our two year olds hide in the clothes rack at the store and are silent. You start to get that feeling in the pit of your stomach. Suddenly all the mommas convened at one point and I hustled over to see and there was our little girl, trying to nurse from her just milked momma and momma chasing and smelling her baby. I think I did shed a tear at that point. Brad came out with the rest of the flock and he checked on the pair several times during the day. All is well with our lambs that think they are fawns. All is well.
May 22, 2008 We had more babies this week. The ewes Deb Bender sent to us are bringing on the babies. 407 had a single ewe lamb yesterday morning. She is a wonderful mother, she talks a lot to her baby. Baby is quiet but strong. It is always so amazing to see them up and nursing within 5 to 10 minutes after birth. Some mothers are so intent on drying off their baby they do a circle dance chasing the baby while the baby is stumbling after the teat and nourishment. Sometimes it is tempting to step in and hold the mother’s head so the baby can eat. This was not an issue for 407 she did a beautiful job. Today I went out back to check on our three mothers who look ready to lamb. Sure enough I found twins. I was very pleased with how I found the trio as well. As I walked out to the pasture I could see the flock down by the river’s edge. I walked on down but kept an eye out for Brutus too, It was very quiet and he usually announces our presence to the flock. I was rounding a large clump of tall grass and saw Brutus laying down intent on watching an new mother lick off her babies. He had settled about 20 feet away and was quietly gaurding her as she lambed. She had two babies, quite fresh, and already up nursing. What a beautiful sight. Andrew and I carried the two babies up to the barn and put them in a jug with their mom. They were worn out after their birth and long journey to the barn. Momma was worried about our interfrerence but followed along focused on those babies. They all look good.
Dominic and brother Demetri had a busy afternoon chasing each other around. They were butting one another then turning to chase the other. It looked like a fun little game of lamb tag. I am glad Dominic has decided he has enough energy to stay with the flock. We do have coyotes about who would love a bit of lamb for lunch. It was always so disconcerting for mom to leave him out back by himself.
Joy has joined the weaned lambs and has made herself right at home. I grain the lambs using three gallon round pans. Each pan gets 4 scoops of grain and if the lambs would just choose one pan to eat out of there is plenty of room for all of them. They like to try each dish to see if it is better than the last so there is a lot of nervous scooting between pans to get the best meal they can. Joy being quite a bit younger than the others could have gotten lost in the melee. I need not worry. She plunked her head into a pan, put her front knees in it and had a whole dish to herself. She will make a wonderful Dairy ewe with that kind of presence. She may even be the Matriarch of the flock some day!
Lambs are fun. We are usually done lambing by now so these entertaining moments are a bonus for us. Bonus Blessings for the season.
May 15, 2008 Wow, I usually want to say stop the train I want to get off when our lives get so busy it seems you have to think about taking a breath, but this year, it is a joy. It has been wonderful to be selling cheese, and going to markets, meeting old and new friends. The Seattle Cheese Festival is this weekend. We will be selling cheeses from 2 to 5 on Sunday. Our Ricotta is being used in a presentation Saturday and also the Pecorino d’ Adna will be used Friday pm in a presentation of old world cheeses and the new cheese modeled after them. It has been a great week. Back to the Moreland Market in Portland yesterday. It is such a warm and pleasant neighborhood. Many times I have said I feel like an honored guest to their neighborhood. It is a fun market to sell cheese at. Wow, it is good to be busy and not have to make a lot of decisions. Except I will call the floor finisher to accept his bid and get myh floors fixed so we can really move things back to rights!
I have an excavator in my front yard. It is quite a special treat for a house with small boys in it but also for their mother. The mud from the driveway and the yard was pushed forward and piled up front. What else to you do with mud soup? Our new friend Doug Brown scraped and scraped the mud forward off the trees and the septic field. It was piled about 5-6 feet high, It is now disappearing, off to be fill dirt. It is another huge effort by our nieghbor Bill Reisinger. It is huge for me, I had no idea what we would be able to do with all this mound of dirt. Whew.
We have one little lamb with a death wish….Dominic was born out on the pasture Tuesday May 6. He and his brother are about the two cutest babies I have ever seen. One is black with white splotches and Dominic is White with black splotches. He has big round spots over each eye and two circles on each front knee, kinda like the Dennis the Menace comics. He keeps wandering away from his mother. He was laid out flat in the field the other day and I was sure he was dead. The Gaurd Dog was hanging over him and Dominics neck was all wet ….”oh Brutus what have you done?” I picked the lamb up and carried him to his mother, he was fine. sigh. The next day Deborah and I went out to check on the animals. I had seen a Bald Eagle flying low over the field and wanted to make sure all was well. No Dominic. We looked and called, finally when the mommas came back out to the field he emerged from the bushes around the edge. He thinks he is a baby fawn with all those spots. He beds down in a cool place and sleeps till his mom calls him out. What a nut.
That was all written the 15th, the Seattle Cheese Festival is over, we had another Moreland Market, another lamb born Wednesday am and I still do not want to get off the train. It is good to do cheese and be busy and make no major decisions.
May 3, 2008 Here we are, Market Season is here. Wow, how did that ever happen. Five months ago today we were evacuated from our home by a boat, we lost 75% of our flock of sheep and today I enjoyed the people and community of Puyallup at their opening farmers market for the season. Sigh
It has been an amazing journey. The past few weeks readying for market I had a nervous stomach. Unfounded really, but it just seems so long and so far away that I was selling cheese at markets. The first market of the season always offers the challenge of finding everything. I am always just certain I will overlook a small detail, like the cashbox, or something just as essential. It was a bit harder this year wondering what was thrown out after the flood, what was cleanable and what needed replacing. Then there was the vehicle issue, which one will it all fit into. The Jeep was the most logical choice but it is just a hair shorter than the back of our Subaru used to be. I will need to do some strategic packing for the markets I need to take the canopy to as it is the largest thing I take. Cheese. What were my recipes? Where are the tubs? How much to take? We may only have fresh cheeses this year I hope not to disappoint. Sigh. It all went very well, except the transmission, we thought, went out on the Jeep on the way up north. Yikes, I was going down a hill and suddenly the car was not in gear…..we pulled over and called Brad..Help. He was on his way to rescue us when he recalled the shift for the 4 wheel drive was on the floor and may have been kicked or wiggled out of position. Praise God that was all it was! The Market Manager was called and said get on up here so my helper Deborah and I went on our merry way to market. We met a lot of wonderful caring customers who asked about the flood. I had pictures for those who wanted to see, fresh cheeses to sample and sell and it was just like it should be. Deborah has been an amazing help this week and I think knew I needed the comfort of another helpful soul for the day. Whew.
Actually Deborah has been a blessing for several weeks. She and I worked together at the Lewis County Health Dept many years ago. We have seen each other in town a bit. She became the caretaker for her father and had wanted to get out and help after the flood but her duties as caretaker were huge at that point in time. Her father passed away on January first and Deborah has been a steady volunteer for many in the area when she is able. She called and offered her help on Tuesdays. She has helped dig up the septic tank, cleaning, hosing, paint a ceiling, reorganize kitchen cabinets, make Ricotta, and has been milking with Brad. She went to Market today and has been a huge blessing in a quiet, come alongside, let me help you sort of way. What a gift.
Yes we made ricotta and took several pounds to Portland last week. It was fun to deliver cheese again and visit with Steve Jones at Steve’s Cheese in Portland. Then I took the younger two boys to the Zoo and met the Cheese Chick Christine Hyatt. What fun, our boys played in the sandbox and I enjoyed getting to know Christine better and hear of her upcoming plans. Though the mud and farm and making decisions about things are a distraction it is really nice to get back into action with the cheese again.
Life on the farm is progressing as well, the Ewes that Deb Bender sent our way are just about ready to begin lambing. It will be a joy to have lambs born here this year. Our ram has had his opportunity to do his thing and has been removed from the pen with the ewes we purchased with the gifts of many of you. We will finally get them sheared next week and then they can join the flock that is out on pasture during the day and eat the good sweet grasses that are growing in the lower field. Brutus, the gaurd dog, is doing a good job and is going out with them each day. Jewel, his sister, wanders, so she is in the lamb pen. Don’t leave the gate ajar or she is out like a shot and down the road. It is much too busy, and fast, for her to wander onto. We had a group here last weekend who cleaned up the shed for our lambs and put up siding the lambs are loving their house and I am enjoying having gates to close them out while I pour the grain into their dishes. Some of those ram lambs are jumpy and big and I do not like to fight them off as I prepare the grain. What a huge help that has been.
We also last week had the mud cleared from under the house. We only had one end that was really bad and these guys did a great job clearing dirt, plastic, replacing one beam, raising the chimney wall!!!! and then spraying and replacing the plastic vapor barrier. Wow. I walked into the kitchen and immediately I could tell the house was different It did not just run downhill but was level. A friend came over and commented ‘your dining room floor does not wiggle any more”!!! What a huge blessing this is not only because it looks and feels great but I can now get on with other needs we have for the house. I had no desire to put in floors or do much in the kitchen untill I knew how much we needed to repair underneath the house and how many FEMA dollars that would take. I can move on with our plans, it may take a while since market season is here but we will ba able to move ahead! Sigh what a blessing
Spring is still trying to come to the Northwest, though we are seeing a bit of sunshine, some days are still quite cold. We will see more sunshine soon of this I am sure. Thank you all for your help and generosity. One woman at market today said she just could not do mud but she was praying for us. It is all part of the big picture, slinging mud or sending prayers. It is what makes this big world a caring community. Thank you all again and again.
April 19, 2008 Snow. It snowed today, this has been the craziest year in my memory. Snow. sigh, makes me afraid to ask what is next. But what has happened “next”is that we have had a huge week. Our bathroom has been wired by two engineers. How many people can say that? We now have half a shower, trim in the office, and a red ceiling in the laundry room. On top of all that we have a fence line that is clear and ready for rewiring and cheese. We have our cheese home from Beechers. We will forever be thankful to Beechers for taking care of our rounds of cheese.
Whew, I need a rest. It has been a wonderfully full three weeks but I have to say I am exhausted. I can see a light out there though, and it is a good cheery sunny light!
Wednesday I drove the Jeep to Seattle to get our cheese from the Cave at Beechers. The cheese rounds have been well tended by Bjorn their Affineur. I will never forget the day after the flood and Beechers called to say what can we do to help you out. I was standing in the middle of the driveway looking at our cave perched on a fence post. It had been disengaged from the electricity and had landed at a crazy angle but the cheese had stayed on the shelves. It was truly amazing. My sister and her family had been praying for us during the flood, James her eldest son had prayed for the cave….Barb thought oh my. Well, that prayer and the prayers of many upheld us and our cheese and the wonderful folks at Beechers took care of it till we could bring it home. We have a quasi cave which was full to the brim, so much so that Norm Peterson brought us out another unit to borrow till we can get another pop cooler for a secondary cave. Wow, could we even imagine we would have that sort of a problem 3 months ago? Brad made his third batch of cheese today amidst a flurry of work and snow. A group of fencers came from The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Olympia. They worked in the snow and made wondrous progress. We have been blessed with fencing help for several weeks. Kids and adults have cleaned and chopped off brambles, sawed off the trees, pushed in fence posts and worked their tails off to get the fence back into working condition. It is very good not only for the sheep but for the gaurd dogs. Keeping Brutus and Jewel in and the Coyotes out. God Bless each one of these folks, their blistered hands and frozen toes. It has been a huge undertaking. These groups have been so gracious and giving, even working around the carcass buried under some debris. I was out there on a cold day so the odor was tolerable.
Our bathroom project is getting on well. It has been plumbed, wired, mostly sheetrocked, and awaits the floor. It amazes me how one 8×7 foot room can be such a problem. It is out of square, we changed the plumbing, the wiring has gone from one light with a plug in attached to the base to a real set of outlets, including the GFC outlet we should have in a bathroom. It has a fan now, will have a functional heater, I may feel as if I have moved uptown! Many thanks to Bob and Evan who have taken this challenge on, to Rich Hill and Ted Bowes who got the ball rolling, Jim Truitt and company who kept things on track, and Jason and his crew from the Langley Christian Missionary Alliance Church on Whidbey Island who came today and really kicked the project along. These “kids” had the energy and the know how to really work.
I was out feeding lambs when they came this morning, Brad was milking and planning to make cheese…..oh boy another day of work groups….just feel the excitement as the snow flurries around my cold fingers and the lamb pen has been reduced to just plain mud. Lord, I prayed for strength. It came and these young people were such a huge blessing to us and our home, and our kids. Brad was able to make cheese, just giving enough direction to keep the guys going. The women scrubbed and began painting the laundry room. We also did touch up in the office and Shelby put the trim up around the room! I was so very thankful for all the help and the renewed energy these people brought. It is good.
I got all the permit checks written and in the mail for the Chehalis Community Farmers Market on Tuesday, the Moreland Farmers Market in Portland on Wednesdays, the Redmond Saturday Market and the Puyallup Farmers Market on Saturdays, and the Seattle Cheese Festival at which we will be Sunday May 18th from 2-5 pm. The season is at our doorstep. We did find there was mildew in the cheese packing room under the floor so we will need to work a bit more before that part of the operation is totally ready for the season but we are so close. We are so very thankful for all of the volunteers and folks who have helped us get to this point we are at today. Making cheese and preparing for markets. It is just what we should be doing. Thank you all.
April 13, 2008 This was a week of firsts and lasts. What joy, Brad made the first cheese of the season. He made a batch of Mopsy’s Best. He made eleven rounds that will be ready to sell in three months time. It is such a pretty sight to see the rounds lined up and ready to be brined and then caved…..what cave? It was delivered at 8:30 this morning and will be at temperature by the time the cheese is done brining. People are amazing and creative and accomodating and whatever else we can find that is good in our souls, that is what we are. Norm Peterson is a local man who sold a business that had connections to people who use pop coolers in stores. He now just refurbishes all sizes of pop coolers and sells them. He had a beautiful unit in which he will install a switch to allow the temperature to settle at 50-55 degrees. We can add appropriate moisture for our cheese and there is our cave! Another big step is that all our lambs born to our sheep are now weaned and mommas are all in the milking line up. It was noisy here Saturday, as our work groups can attest to, but they have all settled into the grain, hay, alfalfa, and play phase of their lives. The Popcorn Parade at dusk still just makes me laugh out loud. The lambs will gang up and race around the pen in a mass. One of them will just jump up in the air and several will follow suit. It is just joyful to watch. They are just having a lamb party out there and I am totally entertained by their antics. Shirley, Goodness and Mercy are in the pen with the others. They have not gotten used to grain on a schedule. In the momma’s pen the lambs get grain free choice. We feed them in a “creep pen”. I guess the term comes from the lambs can creep in and the opening is too small for the mommas. Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy were getting quite rotund with their free choice grazing….I think it was an all day thing for them. They are the first in line when the buckets of grain appear. My “last” celebration is that the last of the burn piles has been lit, and has tried to burn this week. It is the pile of things that were in the office…I am finding my old nursing texts, stacks of magazines, old files that were wet, some pictures and remnants of the Christmas tree. The pile is out by our back patio and we will rejoice when it is gone. It will be the close of a chapter for me. The Demise of the Junk from the House. sigh. The first for out back is the wonder of freshly mown spring grass. Have you rejoiced in the Spring when all the grass is lush and green and once it is mowed it is not only a large accomplishment but it looks like it should be in a magazine. Our back yard has much less mud than the front and what mud was there is allowing the grass to grow through. Late evening sun on our lush green lawn, noise of kids playing. sigh it makes the sore muscles happy. Many thanks to the Ferndale Lutheran Church folks who cleared debris from the yard and fences, The Lutheran Girls who crawled under my house and pulled out the dried up mud! To Marna Peterson and some Sumner Presbyterian Church youth who helped me scout the yard before the mower went through, who cleaned the barn and what we found in the old cheese cave, and to Bob and Evan from University Place Presbyterian Church who are bound and determined to get our bathroom/laundry room to functioning. Thank you all the groups who have been here this week and blessed us with your help, and strength, and minds! We are so very thankful for all of you and your families who sent you on your way here.
April 8, 2008 Spring Break has broken. Wow, We have had a huge outpouring of help in the past week and a half with more to come! Fencing is the issue at hand and the continual mud abatement. I suspect by the end of the weekend we will move the office back into the office and enjoy the freshly painted walls and new ceiling. The floor will still need attention but it will get it in time. The farm is functioning, it has a limp, but it is functioning. We are milking now, Brad is reporting about 60 pounds of milk a day. This compares to about 150 pounds per day last year at this time. Many of the lambs are weaned. They are out of grass already but we are giving them a good grain ration and some nice grass hay. They get alfalfa for dessert. We have 5 of the ram lambs sold, one has gone on to his new home, with 7 loving kids, what tough luck. The others will be picked up by this weekend. Normally we could take the extra lambs to the sale barn in town and they would be auctioned off. The sale barn flooded and closed it’s doors. It was a 50 year tradition here in Lewis County. It will be missed. I now have several lambs I will need to feed till I get them sold. It will happen, just not this week with the emphasis on fencing, milking, mudding, and what to do with the milk? We will need to make cheese before the weekend is over. We will need to buy a pop cooler to use as a cave. That is the thing with freezing the milk, it adds up much faster than you would think it should and the freezer is full. That is a blessing but takes us to a new level of recovery. The final cleaning of the Cheese plant is being done. Our friend Deborah came yesterday and washed and washed and washed cheese molds, cheese mats, and cheese making items. It will be finished this week and over the weekend the Black Sheep Creamery will be making cheese. Woo Hoo, It seems like yesterday that we were doing that but how could yesterday seem like and eternity away from us in this time and place that we live in now. Time and memories do funny things to you.
Today’s report is good, helpers clearing fences, cheese on the horizon, milking is going well, even the youngest ewes are getting the hang of it. Brad is getting stronger every day. The lambs are growing and gaining beautifully. Markets are less than a month away! Yikes! we better get a move on.
March 28, 2008 In the final synposis of the day I was remiss in mentioning that your prayers are so very helpful. Brad has been feeling better and stronger each day. Last Friday he went in and they actually drained the lobe of his lung that had been infected with the pnemonia, even as they were draining it he could feel the improvement. He could take a much deeper breath and the plueritic rub was disappearing. I would say he is back at about 70% now and is seeming to improve daily! Thank you for your prayers.
March 27, 2008 Snow…in late March…in the Pacific Northwest….Not our norm. While many other areas of the country and world would still be expecting snow this time of year, I was not. I would prefer the sunshine and about 50 to 60 degrees but will take what I get. Actually next week that is the prediction and since next week is spring break for two of the kids let it snow now and get it out of its systems. We will warm up soon. I have to say I am a true Washingtonian as I have webbed toes, and I love 65 and overcast. It is the best weather to work outside in and I am really looking forward to doing that. The best news we have is that all our family has returned home. Our girls donated by Deb Bender have come home safely from Ninety Acre Farms in Arlington. They look very good. Gretchen Wilson and her friends sheared them, they are healthy and hale, two are showing udders so we will see babies in April and 5 are black and whites like our Holstein was. I hope they turn out to be as good of milkers and as peaceful as she. We also purchased 17 ewes from Promised Land Farms in Wisconsin. They were delivered here on Tuesday by Ron Keener. Ron also brought the Bender ewes to the Northwest in December and it was good for him to see them in their home setting. We will breed the new ewes now for August and September deliveries. We have a full house and hope to wean babies on Sunday to begin milking…..two whopping days ahead of schedule! We will freeze the milk at first but this gives us such hope and inspiration that things should be moving along at a much better pace now. Especially if we see those warmer temps and sun breaks!!!!! We would have had girls out on the back pasture if this last storm had not given us so much moisture. Things will dry out much faster now that is it spring and by July Peter and I will be grumbling about taking water out to the back field twice a day. Never happy🙂. We are getting along well here, the renters are settling into their new home, we are moving along with ours. We had our friends from the University Place Presbyterian Church return. It is nice to have made so many friends over the past 4 months. It is remarkable. They worked on the bathroom and did more cleaning outside. This bathroom project is becoming a true remodeling project. I had hoped to spare some of the old bead board that was original to the room. We had left the top 4 feet on the wall but finally stripped it down….Do you know that not one of the 2 by fours holding up that 6 foot wall was complete! Thank you Lord that it is an old house and solidly built to withstand what has happened along the way. Wow, so we now have a barebones room to wire and finish walls and do all we need to have a utility bathroom off the kitchen again. It does have the functioning commode and we can only go up from here, I really don’t think there is anything left to rip out! The status report is lambs everywhere, milking starts Sunday, Cheese to follow, Barn is full and holding sheep well. The pasture will be put to use after this storm passes on by. Guard Dogs are here and willing to work, we will need to be cautious to see if Jewel will stay with the sheep or wander as not all the fences are intact. Brutus usually takes his job seriously. Kids have Spring Break next week. Life is good, all the easter chocolates went on sale this week and my pantry is full! Mmmmmmm.
March 22, 2008 It is hard to get a berth at the computer when I have to fight off four others for the honors. What a month of ups and downs. It has been challenging for all of us. Brad is progressing as expected….by the medical community….give him 6-8 weeks to get better. Not fast enough for us and it is hard for him to slow down as the honey do list grows longer each day. There is a lot Peter and I can do but Brad can do things better. Peter has been a huge help and a blessing. We are progressing. Our friend Brian came today with another motorcyclist. He has not been here for a few weeks and it was nice to hear him say he could see a lot of progress. I guess it is like raising children you do not see the millimeters as they grow but see the milestones as they fly by. We are making progress, thank you Brian for putting it into perspective. We have been blessed with people who have come at the right time to help and with appropriate skills to do that with. We were blessed with a group, related to folks at the Toledo Presbyterian Church on Saturday. They drywalled and mudded. It was nice to have some progress on our house. It seemed logical to get the rental up and going and rented, which it is. WOO HOO. The business needs to keep some momentum going but I have to say with all that has been going on here I was beginning to get depressed and it has been wonderful to see some progress in the office and the “mudroom”. The Adventist Church had a crew here last Sunday cleaning off fences and cleaning off equipment. Then some of the Adventist students came on Wednesday to help finish up the drywalling project from Saturday. Today we had a highly skilled group of friends from a Methodist Church in Renton come and make some more sense of our bathroom. It now has a floor! The Shower base is installed and we can move forward inch by blessed inch. My 6 foot son will love having the shower installed, baths are for birds. Joan helped me clean off the woodwork from the office and scrub it down and we even got two layers of Kilz on two of the walls. I am not a very enthusiastic painter but once started now I can see the momentum kicking in and I will get the painting done more sooner than later. Then we can move everything back into the office and have one room pretty much done! wow. Brad is up north today. He took the kids and went to fetch sheep at Arlington!!!! Yes Deb, they are coming home tonight. They have been invited to an early Easter Dinner at his parents home in Stanwood and will rest there before driving home. Ten bred ewes and a ram who has been returned to us by Alexia Stevens. One of the ewes is bagging up so we can say THANK YOU again to Deb Bender who sent these ewes to us whose ram broke in one night. we may be lambing yet again in April. The rest of them should be due in May or June. And then sometime this week we will be expecting Ron Keener to arrive with 17 ewes from Wisconsin. We will be over run with sheep. We will be able to begin using the back pasture after Easter. It has dried out enough and is not muddy like the barnyard. What a blessing these events have been. Our ram, who is returning home tonight, will have a job to do as we will use him to breed the new additions to our flock. Which means we will be lambing again in August or September this year and will be making Christmas Cheese. We had thought of this before but never acted on it. The time is ripe to do it. Kristine called to day to offer more hay and they hope to bring it next week. How God put it in her heart to call on the day more sheep are coming is really not a mystery. I think God knew we needed the encouragement and I beleive God is in control not me so when I try to be the one claiming all the wisdom to make this place function like a farm again I learn, once again, God is the blessed Controller of all things. Ups and downs this month. Tomorrow is Easter, The Celebration of the Risen Lord, A time of Renewal, new beginnings…..a lot of things but most importantly it is a recognition that we are loved and forgiven and will be forgiven when we mess up again and again and that God’s plan is Supreme.
March 11, 2008 If you would like your dial-up connection to be faster, don’t pour a cup of coffee into the keyboard. sigh, It was a good cup of coffee too. Well the lap top is at the shop airing out. The lambs keep growing and I will continue to weigh them weekly. We are done lambing….or should I say one of our e-mail delivery sites has completed their participation in our efforts to repopulate our farm. Kim and Doug have been great and we have about 47 babies from the 22 pregnant ewes who survived the flood. What a testament to their hardiness and health and good caretaking! What blessing. Ronda and Daniel have delivered 8 ewes from their farm. They had decided to give us all the ewe lambs delivered. That is all they have delivered! Brad continues to get better each day and we plan to be milking by the first of April. Folks are here to look at the rental. Life continues on and has ups and downs this week I plan on going up!
March 8, 2008 It has been a week hasn’t it. It has been a horrible week too…0r at least it tried to be. As Saturday arrives it is looking up again. I got the “call” last Saturday. I was at a quilt show at the Centralia Christian School. We were raising money for the school library which sustained a lot of damage in the December flood. I went out to the parking lot to check my cell phone messages and there was Brad, unable to breathe, an hour and a half ago….oh my. I called home quickly and my son said dad is okay they took him to the hospital in an ambulance. What! Brad had been sick with a cold but had no fever and had actually felt better that morning. What! There he was with a very nasty quick hitting pneumonia. Hooked up to three types of IV antibiotics and sent home three days later with a likely 20 day follow up course of antibiotics. What! It still is hard to believe. Today he is much better, he will be slowed down for several weeks but is home and alive….Wow. What a week. The kids have been champions. Peter and I have fed and cared for the animals, the younger boys have had to be patient and work together on things. We made it. I managed to kill two out of three vehicles in the time Brad was in the hospital. He has gotten the truck up and going again and the jeep worked for 30 minutes till I killed it again. I am good! The Cinderella car is working okay. You just should not drive it after dark as the tail lights don’t all work. It carried home alfalfa bales and feed the other day. Who said Toyota does not make a good farm car. The highlights of the week are Georgie who gave us triplets last Sunday and is doing well. Georgie Girl, yes go ahead and sing the song, is a survivor. She had gangrenous mastitis two years ago. She never went off her feed so we kept her going and after losing the half of the udder that was affected she healed up very nicely. We bred her hoping she would bring us good milking stock, but three lambs, with one half of an udder and one teat! Georgie I have heard of achievers but this is ridiculous. We will most likely put the ram lamb on a bottle and let her raise two. They are still up at Kim and Doug’s since the week had other issues. We hope to bring her and Emily home soon. Yes, Emily also lambed, triplets as well. What incredible sheep we have. Two ewes and a ram each. I think that brings the overall count to 51 live lambs, 31 ewe lambs, 20 ram lambs out of 24 mommas. Good job girls. We will carry on! We were visited by a group of animal disaster relief specialists last Sunday. I am sure that is not their title but it is a group who will be hoping to develop a plan to help rescue animals statewide during a disaster event. They were wonderfully enthusiastic and hope to keep losses to a minimum in the wake of a volcano, fire, flood, any event we could have here in the NW. On monday a group from the University Place Presbyterian Church pulled in. I just sort of stood there dumbfounded. I was not aware they were coming as Brad had been involved in planning jobs for them. Very fortunately Bob and Jim had been here the week before scouting out jobs and Brad was available by phone. We worked it out and they accomplished a lot in a day. Bob and Jim actually came back on Thursday to further work on things. What a blessing. The week had very low spots and a lot of good. My friend Connie called me on Wednesday right when I hit bottom. “Meg, I have had you on my mind all morning, what is going on?” I had just killed the jeep for the second time, had taken John to school, had a few moments before I picked up Peter to share with here where our lives were. A quick prayer and there we were, on our way back up the ladder. Life can be twisted out of perspective and then twisted back into the right light when you can lay out the good and the bad and take stock of what means the most to you. God, Family, Friends, there you have it. We are moving on.
February 29, 2008 An extra day to squeeze in one more lamb for the season! We have had a hugely successful lambing season many, many thanks to Doug and Kim of Mountain Niche Farms, and Ronda and her son Daniel in Yelm. We have had 44 babies so far 25 girls to grow our flock with and 18 males. Yes, do the math, we did have one loss for unknown reasons. These are amazing numbers for what our ewes have been through. We really expected to see them abort or have problems after the flood but not a thing. They were a bit quiet up at Kim and Doug’s for the first few days but then they made themselves at home and turned into the aggressive dairy sheep we are used to, which is very different the the Shetland or Churro breed they are used to. Kim made the comment these are most likely the most aggressive of the bunch as they are the ones that survived. I expect that is true. I expect that is why we have some beautiful babies. That along with the excellent care given. This has been quite the lambing season for me, I better not get used to it. I open up my e-mails and see that 7030 had a single ram lamb, or that Snowflake blessed us with three girls, or that 6056 had a lamb who is up and vigorous. Then I do my little celebration dance and plan to go see my beauties. E-mail delivery. Next year I will have a rude awakening when I start doing the midnight and 3 am checks that Kim has been doing for me this year. Thank you so much. The 4 girls we have from Yelm are the first three ewes, Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, and now they have a St.Croix ewe lamb that was born yesterday. We had “purchased “ , for cheese, a couple St Croix from the Dancing Nanny Farm in Puyallup. Our ewes were lost but our friend Daniel also bought some ewes and has bred them to a Friesian/Lacuanne ram. The beginnings of our look at a “hairy dairy” We will see how the St Croix measure up to milking. The folks at Dancing Nanny had hoped to see some numbers on this so we will be able to produce them from the offspring of the three ewes that Daniel and Ronda are planning to donate back to us. What a blessing. We have had and have made so many wonderful friends that I could not even begin to count my blessings if I had all year to do so and could borrow everyone’s fingers!
Kim and Doug have three left to lamb. Emily is left. When we got back the day after the flood we had three animals who were alive but not walking. We realized two of them were in total shock and we did have them put down. Emily on the other hand could not stand on her left hind leg but she was chewing cud and eating the hay we placed in front of her. I did not want to put her down but had no way to care for her. We had just met Kim and Doug as they drove by offering their help and I really did not want to burden them with the care of a “downer”. Kim offered, and we gratefully accepted her assistance in caring for Emily. Emily has been a very mellow, easy milker, good mother and we really did not want to put her down. Kim gave her a pen of her own so she would not get trundled by the others and soon enough she was standing. The vet figured it was a bad strain nothing broken. Emily, thankfully, is in the last group of ewes to deliver. We are so thankful for the wonderful care these ewes have had and also the healthy babies bouncing all over the yard. Blessings beyond measure!
February 24 2008 It was a beautiful day to introduce our new lambs to the wonderful green earth. We brought 10 more babies home on Friday night. Four ewes and their 10 offspring. We loaded then into Kristine’s horse trailer and brought them home. What a riot. The sheep in the barn wanted out so they came out to greet the new mothers. The new mothers wanted to find their babies and were following them out of the trailer, after I handed the babies out to Brad for him to set on the ground hopefully the correct mother, with a little nudge, would follow the lamb out the door. Then all the circling and butting and calling and running and chaos in the barn until 90% of them had their own babies back. The last 10% we could figure out who went where and if we could catch the little lambs we could set a mother-baby trio or quad set to rights. Whew, I think those moments are actually quite fun because once they all find their babies they all settle in and the quietness that follows chaos is so serene. The grain was fed, the newest babies got their earrings, the bottle babies had their milk. We sat in the plastic therapy chairs and looked at our flock. How peaceful it was. The golden glow in the barn after dark is so magical. I have written about this before but the wondrous color shed by light reflecting off the golden hay to the dark or painted white barn wood pacifies my restless soul. Add in the mothers calmly watching babies and chewing their cud and it is a priceless scene right here in my very own yard. I know this would bore some people to tears but it is a wonderful contemplative scene to me and I relish the time I can do that. Ten minutes later we were hounded by noise “it is my turn to do the computer and he won’t let me do his game.” Back to the real world.
Saturday was the day for the introduction to the world outside. Steve and his son Matthew from the Toledo Presbyterian Church created brackets to hold our hog panel fencing that we use to section off areas of the barnyard, and four women came to shake fence wires and replace fence posts. That done we bracketed off the area yet to be fixed and opened up the barn door. Woo Hoo, what a rush, the 10 mommas headed out to find grass and the 23 babies were all agog . Some were left in the barn, some ran out, some were able to keep up with their mothers who headed out and around the large pile of mud and flood debris in the yard still, some were just confused. It was all settled rather quickly with the four mothers who delivered this week spending a lot of the day in the barn with their offspring and the babies outside running and jumping and playing their little lamb games and then collapsing in a puddle on the grass to rest. It was very entertaining, and we had just the group to be entertained.
We had 6 volunteers from the Sumner Presbyterian Church here to work. I started them in the rental house doing the final cleaning of wood work and windows, thinking we would move on to the cheese room or to fencing after a couple hours. We had trim that needed putting up and all the doors needed to be trimmed to work over the new flooring. I had thought I would get over there some day and get it done myself. I am so thankful they came and were willing to do all the work. It took these 6 plus our friend Joel, plus Matthew after he finished the fencing to accomplish the list. Brad came over and put the toilet in place and, wow, it will soon be rentable….once the kitchen counters and cabinets are here and in place. I could see the possibilities.
The group that came to work here are readying themselves to go to Mississippi in April. They are working as a team and will go down to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina. One woman in the group, Marna, has been to the south 5 times since the Hurricane. She has such sad and heartbreaking stories of the work that is still going on there. I am awed, once again, by the magnitude of disasters around the world. Our flood, though quite and impact, pales in comparison to what others have had to live through. I am humbled by how small we are in the big picture of life and what it offers us but, at the same time, I am humbled by all the wondrous support offered us in our time of need. Each turn we take, each good deed we do, each and everyone of us can make a huge difference in how we work together in this big old world. It takes all of us. We can help the Sudanese refugees, those who are torn from their homes by wars, by floods, by hurricanes, by tsunamis, by tornados, fire, volcanos the news has been full of disasters since our flood. It takes us all, one chore at a time, to help others out and replenish hope in peoples hearts. We all have our gifts, recognizing them and sharing them is our calling. When done, there is always the plastic therapy chair to sit in and contemplate what we have done to improve our world. Sigh.
February 19, 2008 The sheep made it home yesterday. It is wonderful to have their happy voices in the barn again. We moved 6 ewes and 10 babies home. Five of them mommas who have delivered twins and one yearling who was not pregnant. Shirley, Goodness and Mercy now live in the barn. They came out with us as we were putting the barn back together and with their tiny feet they were running through the barn pell mell. Their hooves made a wonderfully happy tapdance noise as they raced across the barn floor boards chasing each other. We did have to end the parade as we paneled off three bays for the sheep to lounge in. Then we put down straw which muffled their joyous dance but this will keep the barn and sheep much cleaner. After Peter, Brad and I readied the barn Brad and I went to load the sheep into a stock trailer. Kim and Doug had moved all the moms and babies together so we carried babies to the trailer and the mommas followed fairly well. Sheep are always acting like they left something behind. You just think you have them where you want them and they turn around and head back to where they began. This usually happens in lambing, they cannot count and it seems they go back to their birthing placed to look for one more. Or so it seems: really they were just comfortable before we moved them, they had their babies in that corner of the barn and why are you moving me into that little pen and disrupting my nest anyway?
Well we got all loaded up and moved home. They will stay in the barn for a few days until we get all the fencing secure and baby safe. The little ones always try to get out on the road side each year. The mommas did not seem to have any hesitation about entering the barn again. I wondered. I know sheep remember things they know where the feed is and the grain. When we clang the gate in the milk parlour it means Brad will be milking soon so they all line up at the gate. The ewes had no hesitancy which was good, or was it all the oat straw on the floor that they were not having any hesitations about? They unloaded, got all mixed up, then got into the barn and settled back down with their own babies. Shirley, Goodness and Mercy were bouncing all over. They were reveling in the fact that there were more creatures their size in this world. They had been living in the laundry room with the cats but cats are kind of slinky and sometimes rude and indifferent. These little things bounced like they did and soon they were all mixing it up and playing sheepish games bouncing and running in the barn. It will be quite the sight when they all run and jump outside.
We have our first Black Sheep of the year. Thankfully she is a ewe lamb and we will be able to carry on our name of the Black Sheep Creamery. Of the 6 ewes who have their lambs in our barn 3 of them are jet black in coloration. Only one of the babies so far has the same coloring. We have spotty ones, we have long curly wooled ones, and short crimpy wool, all white ones but this was our first black lamb. They are all cute no matter what the coloring. Genetics are interesting. Doug and Kim are Shetland and Churro breeders. Kim has certain qualities she is trying to breed in and out of her animals. She is a wool producer and color, crimp, and fiber size are critical to her work. Doug was explaining what some of their known crosses will produce. It is amazing how certain combinations will give certain traits in the offspring. Black in most breeds is a recessive gene so we would need both the ewe and ram to throw the same gene to get our coloring. Bonnie is one of the next ones to lamb. She is white but her father was black. She was bred by Ricotta’s Son whose Grandfather was a black Romanov Ram so we can see what the genetic crystal ball has in store for us and look for proof in the next few days.
February 16, 2008 I knew this day would come. It was lovely. It was dry enough to work outside and warm enough, even on the shady side of the house. We had great workers here from Lutheran connections in Maple Valley, the Sumner Presbyterian Church, and our friend Joel. Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy came outside and kept us entertained. They bounced and ran and ran and bounced till they fell asleep on the porch swing which is still sitting in the back yard. Our workers cleared fencelines, put fences back in, and nailed down the barn floor in readiness for our mommas with lambs to return. We hope to get them this long weekend. I guess my optimistic Wednesday plan was too soon but we are getting there. We even have a load of hay coming from Onalaska donated by a horse person who had extra and was willing to share. We will get the feed in tomorrow and bring our 4 mommas and their twins home. We have eleven babies including our three girls. We have had 6 ram lambs and two more girls to join our flock. They are beautiful. We have two yet to see as they were born this morning amid all the work going on. We will see them this evening. The mommas who survived the flood are doing well. We all watched for signs of aborting babies but they have stayed healthy and eager to please, very eager to eat!
February 11, 2008 We welcome two ram lambs to our flock, born on Saturday 2/9 and a ewe lamb and ram lamb set on Sunday. Kim Kerley is a great midwife, she just e-mails us with these wonderful notes about healthy babies and we are so thankful for each one that is born. That brings the year to 4 ewe lambs and 3 rams so far. We had every intention of selling off all the rams this year but the first two born were so darn cute…..
They are healthier than I can imagine after all these mommas went through in the flood. The first two rams were born at 11 and 12 pounds! Yikes, Cocoa did a wonderful job and looked like a wonderfully contented momma when we saw her Sunday am. We checked all the other ewes when we were up at Kim and Doug’s place, we saw some nice udders forming but nothing looked imminent. Well I guess we are out of shape for this lambing stuff for just 6-7 hours later Kim found the next set of twins doing well. Ebony had her second set of babies, she had two black rams last year, now white twins this year. The sire for this ewe lamb is the same one who sired the triplets, we will expect good things from these girls. They are a blessed salve to our spirits. We have determined for all parties affected we need to begin to move the ewes who have lambed back to our property and raise the little ones here. We may develop a bit of a feedlot area in the barn but it will work, especially with as few animals as we will have this year compared to the last two years.
We have been busy planning and working and moving and ordering and trying to stay ahead of our game here. We have flooring going into the rental on Wednesday, and cabinets have been ordered. Once those two items are done we will be able to rent it out which will releive the mortgage payment. We had a wonderful group of skilled men come from Othello, WA. These men have come to this area several times now since the flood. They work on Habitat for Humanity homes in Othello, and I suspect other areas as well. They furthered the drywalling process in my kitchen and Laundry room! We have walls again. Another couple of gentlemen from the Bellevue Presbyterian Church took on my kitchen floor. This floor is the original fir floor in the house. There have been several reorganizations of the space we now use as the kitchen. The original house had a kitchen half the size, a bathroom, and pantry set up in the areas that now house our kitchen and downstairs bath. The floor needed patching by someone who knew what they were doing and who had the time to do it right. We were blessed with the right someone to do the job. It looks beautiful and we even had some salvaged boards that did not get flooded away which were still in the barn. I can see it happening! Brian came back and scrubbed out the ‘53 Chevy. It looks good. I hope time will allow us to get her running again and it will. Saturday we were literally crawling with help. A school bus brought in a load of kids from Black Hills High School in Olympia. They cleaned in the barn, the fences, the cheese room, and moved a lot of things off the driveway. The things emptied from the machine shop that Brad had to determine if it was: salvageable, junk, recycle, try to salvage, still a question. They were good workers and were a blessing to us. Our thanks goes to them and their tireless teachers who gave up a Saturday to be here helping out. Way to go guys!
Today as we attempted to repair the barn we had visitors from Portland. Tom from Provvista and Debbie from New Seasons Markets. We gave them the grand tour, complete with cuddly lambs. It is funny to show the place to people who have never been here before because then I see it as it really is. I saw the mud and gravel pits, I saw how ineffective the cave is where it is, I saw how dreary my house is without anywhere to invite people to sit down. It will be good to do that every now and then, a reality check. I see the cave atop piers next to a nice clean aging room and the cheese facility spanking clean with cheese hanging. I see the yard clothed in the green of spring. I see the daffodils that are coming up in full bloom, heck, I even see the patio around my kitchen steps that has been on the list for two years. I see the walls in the house painted and clean. I see kitchen cabinets in place. We did not even open the bathroom door that has a two foot plank walkway to the throne and a two foot drop on either side. It is a good thing we use the upstairs bathroom at night. Tom and Debbie were wonderful encouragers. We are still trying to get 4 rounds of Pecorino Romano to the New Seasons Markets. Soon! Tom knows farms and will come back with tools in hand, Debbie has a 6 year old and understood my John getting stuck in the mud just for them. He is a ham. Reality and my reality, they will collide. Lots of work first on fencing though if we are to be getting our babies home. How sweet that is.
February 6, 2008 Shirley, Goodness and Mercy are doing very well, they have learned to drink from a bucket instead of individual bottles. It is a lot easier to feed them that way as you can pour their milk into the top and walk away while they fight and tussle over the two nipples at the base of the bucket. They get wild at times and bounce and jump. We have them in a 4×5 foot pen, wish we could give them more space but it is quite cold out yet for babies without a momma. They are sure fun to have here. I took the list of animals we lost to the USDA today. They have an animal indemnity program to help livestock owners recoup losses of animals. It was hard to face the names and numbers of the animals we lost, list them out, and turn in the final count. No more Linda, or Luna who were the daughter and granddaughter of Mopsy. No more Marilyn Monroe moles on their noses. The sisters, Elizabeth, Louise, and Millie are all gone, as are Ricotta and Holstein, Gertrude and GiGi, some of our best milkers. Ricki is gone she was ready to retire, we have one of last years ewe lambs who survived and her daughter from 2004. They will carry on her line and hopefully be as good as she was in the milking lineup. We do have several of Feta’s offspring, daughters and granddaughters. Shirley, Goodness and Mercy were sired by Gertrude’s son, hopefully they will bring in her good genetics to our new flock. We do have one of Ricottas daughters, she not only has her mother’s looks, she is a good milker and is very mellow. Not much will startle Salt. The sad part is that here twin sister Pepper is gone. They were both very good, mellow milkers. We will rebuild, we may even see better genetics as we grow and have learned to cull. Our first several years we kept everyone who was born female. We were just getting to the point of culling some of our less impressive family lines in the past two years of lambing. The lessons we have learned should help us in rebuilding our flock. We will watch for good milk production and longer lactation. It would never be easy to say goodbye to all of our old friendly ewes who are now gone but we have learned a lot of lessons from them. We know what a good animal is thanks to all their good behaviors, and we know what we would rather not see in a dairy ewe, thanks to some of their “other behaviors”. We have been gifted back some our our ewe lambs when we can handle them on our property, and we have the sheep Deb Bender sent from Wisconsin. We will see some adjustments as we incorporate new blood lines. We will strive to keep our milk as sweet as it was. We have had more opportunity to taste some milk from other flocks. We were startled at how different flocks yield different tastes, or is it all up to the individuals who influence the taste of the flock. Our friend, Carol Smith, who taught us how to milk in 2001 told us how she managed her goats. She would taste the milk of each goat as it freshened and came to the parlour to be milked. She would determine by taste who was in the lineup to provide milk for the calves and who would provide milk for human consumption. It was different from doe to doe. We have had incredibly sweet milk and will cull appropriately to maintain our award winning cheeses at the level to which we have climbed. That tale will unfold over the next several months. Stay tuned.
February 2, 2008 The last 30 hours have been utterly uplifting , a healing wash to battered minds, hearts and souls. We have been pampered and held, gifted and energized. We have been blessed. Friday afternoon we left Chehalis to go to Portland Oregon, home of the nations most amazing foodie population. Home to many incredible cheese shops, home to The Cheese Chick and the Author of the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, Christine Hyatt and Tami Parr respectively. What a wonderful group of people. They planned and hosted a banquet of cheeses, wines, beers, and good foods all brought in by various groups from around Oregon and Washington. We were amazed and blessed, and very full by the time we left the Ecotrust Building in NW Portland. This feat, Cheese for a Good Cause was a blessing to us, it was to help us get back on our feet and it will, It also helped ground us in our hearts and souls. People we knew and did not know were there, Cheesemakers from all around the two states sent product for this event, wonderful foods were prepared by some very nice restaurants in the Portland area, names I say with awe and respect. The stores we have sold at were well represented, Steve’s Cheese, Market of choice, New Seasons, Foster and Dobbs, Beechers from Seattle had someone there, It was truly a blessing. We were lifted up and put back on our feet. We were given hope. It was a huge gift. We were given an abundance of encouragement. We were given a glimpse of what we will be back to, in sharing our hopes and dreams with so many well wishers we could only say we cannot not be back in business. We will get there some how some way. We left the Ecotrust building and walked back to our hotel with full and thankful hearts. Sigh
Which is just what I did next, exhale and sigh. I have been saying for about two weeks now I want to just run away and fall into a pile of nice white feathers and sink in all nestled in their warmth. We had decided to stay in Portland overnight away from the mud and our blessed children, one of which still finds his way into our bed at 2 am and insists on sleeping sideways. I got all ready for bed and climbed in. This bed had a feather mattress as well as three feather pillows. I absolutely melted. It enveloped me in its whiteness and warmth. That was what I had been craving for weeks. Sigh. We did not set the alarm and shut the heavy curtains. I woke up at 5:30 am and willed my eyes shut again. The next look was at 7:45 what a couple of lazy kids. Sigh. Breakfast out and a drive through snow to home.
We checked e-mails first to see if we had babies……..Why indeed, Shirley, Goodness and Mercy were born in the wee hours of the morning. The friends who bought two of our ewes last August planned to give us the ewe lambs back after the flood as we lost so many of our good milkers. Daniel predicted his ewe would give triplets and Ronda hoped they were all girls…..they were right on. We drove up to Yelm this afternoon to pick up our three new girls. We now have bottle babies and will need to get up every three hours at night to feed them…..it feels like lambing season is really here. They are just perfect in every way. Goodness was even prancing around this evening in the straw bed we have placed in the newly redrywalled laundry room. Goodness has a very demanding baa and Shirley, the smallest, will be more than able to hold her own.
In the midst of our brief time at home between traveling from Portland and up to Yelm we were delivered a beautiful flower arrangement from Brad’s mother. A beautiful bouquet of red and yellow flowers. How did she know that just this week I picked up a wallpaper border for the laundry room that was red, yellow, and green. It is perfect confirmation of the choice and will be greatly enjoyed.
Pampered and held, Gifted and energized. We thank all of you who have made our last two days sublime. We have been so utterly blessed in this time of trial and recovery. We are very grateful to all of our friends and family old and new and those we have yet to meet, lives are incredibly intertwined. Thank you all.
January 29, 2008 Brad went to visit Beecher’s today he met with the Affineur. The cheese finisher. The cheesemaker makes his or her wonderful cheeses and then the Affineur follows along for as long as the cheese needs to age, to care for it and nourish it. Simply put the Affineur brushes the rinds and turns the cheese, he or she watches for extraneous growth of unwanted molds as well as monitors the cave conditions and determines when the cheese is ready for market. It is a big job and it is not one we have had the time to perfect. It is good for Brad to get out of the mud and take this trip to visit with the fine folks at Beecher’s and possibly gain some pointers in this process. Beecher’s has been incredible in their response to our flood. Another incredible cheese event that is looming soon is the Friends of Cheese dinner in Portland the first of February put on by our wonderful friends in the cheese community in Portland. Tammi Parr has been posting a lot of the plans on her web site the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, http://www.pnwcheese.typepad.com. This will be a nice event for us to attend
together. I know Steve Jones of Steve’s Cheese has been instrumental in this dinner, as well as Tammi and I am wanting to know who all has been helping to give credit where credit is due. They have a wonderful food community in Portland.
I, on the other hand, took my month long cache of information to the Small Business Administration to begin processing a loan to rebuild and raise the cheese building. I filled out the forms I received from their representative I spoke to in late December. I had about 20 hours of reconciling forms, finding taxes, copying the right pages, collating sales numbers for 4 years, month by month, and filling out the SBA forms signed in all the right places. A month of finding numbers in wet tax forms, trying to replace lost computer and printer cords, a box of printer ink etc. This was an accomplishment for me who hates to sift through the old stuff, I do my numbers at the end of the season to note progress as we see it and move on. These were different numbers and forms. Guess what? The SBA does not do Agriculture loans. I fell apart. I tried to clarify if that means they do not do food businesses at all but all they were seeing was dairy. I may call their 1 800 number and pursue this. In the meantime I know we have had a huge many blessings from many people that will provide us the means to get back into business. I just want to know what it will take to raise the cheese room by 30 to 45 inches as we have planned. I was referred to the USDA for Ag loans and will need to see if they can help with the Food Processing (that happens on a farm) end of things as well. At least they have a local, long term office. I then found my way to the insurance office to pay for the new insurances. The car I was driving quit in their parking lot…My dad rescued me with my mother’s car…..
It will all work out, no one got hurt, I have a house. Today’s paper outlines a couple who were flooded in December and their new home just burned this past weekend. I have a car to go retreive and a home to bring it back to. I have the USDA already called to set up a loan meeting and an officer who will help us with the animal indemnity paperwork at the same time. I fell apart today because I thought I had it all sewed up and was ready to be done with that aspect of flood recovery. I have been sent in a new direction and it may be this one will be all the better as they may be able to look at the whole farm, riverbanks and barns, animals, feed, fencing and mud. This may help us to recover in a much better, larger capacity. Sigh.
January 27, 2008 Progress is being made. I had a bad week last week finally crawled out of the mud far enough to look ahead. That is dangerous isn’t it. There are miles ahead but in the same token we have traveled miles in the last 8 weeks. I neglected to look back and was wallowing in how slow things seem to be going. I think it was the cold along with making decisions. We made a lot of progress yesterday. Brad and Joel Plewa drywalled most of the laundry room and Matt Kemph drilled out a big hole in the side of the house so we could ventilate the mud underneath and begin removal. I cleaned off the last of the mud laden furniture and even got a wild hair and ran to get a quart of paint to paint a bookshelf, just to see something happen. It is a beautiful thing. The cats now need to wait politely at the door, the laundry room seems warmer, the laundry machines started at 8:00 this am and I did not have to wait for the pipes to thaw at 2:00 pm. Brad had gotten the cheese room cleaned once again on Tuesday with Brian and then he got back in to clean out the pastuerizer. The cheese utensils have been scrubbed and cleaned again and there is more than a glimmer of hope that we will have the building funtional by the first of April. The cave will be a different story. We will buy a pop cooler for our cave for this year and we will grow into needing our refrigerated container “cave” in a couple years again. That will give us plenty of time to refine our plans for future flood control and growth issues. We did not outgrow our pop cooler caves until we were milking 48 sheep so with 18 to 20 sheep to start with in April and May, and 10 more in June we will do okay with the cooler for this season. Next year….onward and upward. Literally. We hope to raise the cave up by almost 5 feet from the current cheese room floor. It did sit about 18 inches higher where it was. God willing we will not see a flood with the huge swell that we saw with this flood but we will be much more prepared!
We have hope of new lambs soon. During church today Pastor Tom Bradshaw spoke on the 23rd Psalm. Our first three ewes have been named…Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy will follow us for the rest of our days!
January 23, 2008 Our sheep have been sheared and checked. We have at least 18 who are truly pregnant and two yearlings who could be. Those two are not due for 4 weeks so they may not be showing an udder yet. Thanks so much to Marie Voelker and her 4H group from Castle Rock, WA. It happens to be pretty cold this week but usually the sheep fare well after shearing. They have a nice barn facility to huddle in if needed. About one third of the sheep had pretty smelly wool and it was high time to get it off. Brad went up with the shearing crew and watched them start. They were impressive having all 23 done in a day. We thank you so much. Meanwhile I met with Rich and Mary Jane Hill a contractor who is a friend of a friend. They hope to help us out with our downstairs bathroom. It will be nice to get our bathroom and soon the kitchen done in our house. It has been very cold this week for Western Washingon. Temperatures in the teens at night. Our pipes have been freezing in the bathroom and laundry room as the insulation and drywall are gone and it is fairly open through that part of the house, lets just say the cats can make it in and out without us letting them in the doors. I will look forward to cats annoyingly yelling at the door demanding to be let in, that will mean we have blocked the access holes. It is a wonderful gift being given. Another contracter friend has traded us some of his work for an older farm implement he will be able to fix up. It got wet and with all the other projects here would be neglected, so it is a more than generous offer. The truck will get the TLC it needs and we will get a hole cut under our porch by someone who knows what they are doing and has the tools to use to do the project right (besides the continued childcare offered by his wife!). We will then entertain a couple youth groups who have offered to be moles. God Bless their youth and generosity. Brad had a wonderful helper on Tuesday. Brian came from Seattle to help out for a day. He was a good help, and a good helper. They worked alongside each other and started cleaning out the cheese room with scrub brushes. It had been powerwashed twice but was in need of a scrubbing. I think this helped Brad see that cheese will be happening again. We know it will, it just seems a long way off but step by tiny step it comes a bit closer. It has become tiring to balance so much, perhaps the cold weather makes each step seem more difficult. Spring will come and with that some promises of new life. Lambs will be coming soon, the daffodils grow a bit more each day. All things have a beginning and an end. I look forward to new beginnings and the promise of spring. Step by tiny step it will come.
January 19, 2008 Another wonder filled day from the mud flats. We woke up this morning not sure what the day would bring. Had heard the Presbytery was putting together work groups but Gwen made no promises last night when we had suggested we needed people to TSP the walls and ceilings in our rental house. Since we had no TSP I went to the hardware store at 8:00 to get some and dropped by a coffee place to juice up for the day. Thank you Franna Pitt for the Starbucks card, it was very nice of you and it was a treat to stop and bring home lattes. We got going, my goal was to clean the house. I can’t understand that with all the other things going on how the housework and laundry keep accumulating…..sigh. I have a bunch of things here I could consolidate and put into the bunkhouse to store to get them out of the house. I started all that and somehow after vacuuming the floor in the kitchen got into washing canning jars. Some of them have been outside and were full of rainwater. They were beginning to crack with the freezing weather. That led to restacking the Christmas things in the bunkhouse and making more room to get things out of the house…..Brad did have a couple of men come from the Toledo Presbyterian Church. Friends of a Friend of ours. They scrubbed and cleaned and came over for lunch. Bobbie, a local volunteer had made us beef and barley soup last weekend so I thawed it out and we all feasted well. That is another story she has made thousands of meals since December 3rd a real local hero in my estimation. These gentlemen took the drywall off our downstairs bathroom. We have a bead board layer yet to remove to see how much dry rot has accumulated over the last one hundred years. Once that is repaired we can close up the walls again. About this time we had a group of kids show up to start shaking fences. We still have debris and a couple sheds and the neighbors playhouse on our fencing. They were able to accomplish a lot in the time they had here, each step is a step closer. I got a call from a disaster assistance outreach worker from the Rochester United Methodist Church. They are attempting to contact all those who have flooded to see if they are aware of all services available. She connected me with another woman who is aware of the Hay Wranglers. A group of women, she thought, who are collecting hay to help farmers out over the next 6 months. They also may have a lead on fencing supplies. While I was on the phone to her the Crock Pot Queen showed up with a dish of lasagna and a bag of soup for the freezer. I told the woman on the phone she is a wonderful mind reader as well as a wonderful cook. Brad and I had discussed this morning that if no one came today to help with the scrubbing we would grab a pizza somewhere and head over ourselves, let the kids camp out and make a party of it. Well the scrubbing was done and we now had a beautiful dish of lasagna to eat. That is not even the amazing part of the day for me. I went to a kitchen shower. A woman I do not know had an idea to have a kitchen shower for some women who had lost things in their homes. I have to admit I was a bit scared about going. I did not know what to expect. It is an amazing thing to see the love that has been poured out upon this county. This woman and her friends had amassed a wonderful selection of kitchen gadgets, towels, toasters, tea kettles, drinking glasses, plates, baking pans, recipes, with a cake and coffee to boot. (I think this will be the only time in my life that all of the tupperware in my kitchen has a matching lid. How many of you can say that?) I am humbled again. It is with such gratitude in my heart that I am able to accept these gifts. It is with such love that they are brought. The other women were touched and grateful as well. I had such a time listening to their stories. One or two were plucked off of porch roofs, with wild stories of their rescues. Two of the women lost their homes. One woman found out after the flood that the last time the house had flooded they had slapped drywall on top of wet drywall and floor over wet subfloor. The house should be torn down but the mortgage broker and the insurer are not in agreement about that. Meanwhile the family lives in their 800 square foot shop with a port a potty and they shower at the local fitness center. I am reminded it could always be worse. There are miraculous stories as well one woman raises guinea pigs. She had them housed in the barn behind her home. She had moved a rubber tub holding some of her pets up to a shelf in the barn across from the wire cages. She feared what she would find when she returned home the next day. To her amazement the animals all survived. The ones in the plastic tub, had a water line on them about 2-3 inches up. They were on a shelf that was higher than the metal cage but those ones were dry. The only thing they can presume is that the wire cages were on the wall that the water was hitting first. As it came around the corners and dipped down it was low enough to avoid the cage but hit the wall across from these cages as it roared on around and out of the building. What an amazing thought that the whole building was not crushed. The garage at the house next to hers floated across the road and landed on the neighbors driveway. It was huge to meet some of those I have read about in the paper. It was good to see that healing has begun in other homes as well. Some have not and it will take time and a lot of help. One woman has not been able to go back to her home yet. It was a very hard thing for her to accept. My heart breaks for the fear this sort of thing can generate. I never thought we would flood. We sit 30 feet above the river when at its summer low. It is incredible how much water traveled through this valley. But Robin and I agreed the flood was nothing compared to the tidal wave of humanity that has reached out to those here affected by the muddy water. Robin corrected me…We are not facing a tidal wave…it is a Tsunami.
Tomorrow will be the laundry and housecleaning day maybe, we will see what happens.
January 18, 2008 What a beautiful week it has been the sun has been shining and it just makes you beleive the mud and poorly draining soil will leave. It is nice to see green things coming up like grass and daffodils. I know we have a bit more winter to pass by but we always get glimpses of spring this time of year to lead us along and remind us that it will not rain forever here in the Pacific Northwest, spring does come. I made it back to my quilting group on Tuesday evening. It is a wonderful group of women who meet on Tuesdays to quilt, and encourage, and share ideas and books and experiences. I love it. Several of these women now have grandchildren and several are teachers. They have seen and heard just about anything and are full of the wisdom experience teaches. I have learned sometimes it is easier to get a lesson from someone who has had to create the wheel and not recreate the wheel myself. They are warm and generous and whole heartedly welcomed me back. I guess quilters are just as wonderful as wool people. The group, called “In Stitches”, is having a quilt show in February starting the 29th. (It will be at the Centralia Christian School 1315 South Tower in Centralia WA the weekend starting February 29th, if anyone is in the area and would like to see some fabulous quilts) They are going to highlight rescued quilts this year. We have another quilter in town who carried an abundance of her quilts up to her attic to preserve them from the surging waters. I have my family room quilt that I have been working on for over a year that my friend Sandy Fick rescued from the mud on the floor of my dinning room. She lovingly cleaned and hosed the muck off. It looks fabulous and I started to remark the quilting lines on Tuesday pm. I will display it with swatches of the fabric as they looked before the flood effect. It may give quilters a whole new opportunity to age their quilts. Instead of “tea dying” I could sell quarts of mud sludge and offer up official mud from the 2007 flood to dye quilts with. Oh well, I won’t get rich, I will not quit my day job. It has been so good of my former employers to offer me work 2-3 days a week but it is hard to leave home when there is so much to be done. Groceries and Mortgage payments still call out for attention. We have so much to be thankful for as we progress into another weekend. We have a group of hard workers coming tomorrow to help rescue fences. It will be good to get a good assessment of what fencing work will need to be done. Last weekend we had two groups here one from University of Puget Sound. Kids out on college break and looking to play in the mud. They, along with a couple people from the Bellevue Presbyterian Church, cleaned the woodwork for the rental, they helped clean, clean, and clean it more so we are that much closer to renting it out. Monday we will have the Castle Rock 4H group coming to help us shear the sheep and we will get our first good look at their udders to see who really is pregnant and who is not. This usually is started in December when Brad feeds them grain in the milking parlour. He gets a good look at whose udder is developing at what rate and each day he can compare progress to the list of due dates and we know who we will need to check on each night. This will be our first really good assessment. Pray for udders and Pray for ewe lambs.
God is good and we are making it. Thank you all of you, we appreciate your love and generosity and always those prayers
January 16, 2008 Wolftown. We visited Wolftown Sunday as the woman behind the experience had a car to give us to help us out. T Martino and Pete Yamamoto have an incredible place on Vashon Island where they are rehabilitating wolves that will be let out in the wild. They also have several animals who are their “education animals” as they would be unfit to release back into their natural habitat. I was amazed. I have never been so close to a wolf before, they are beautiful. I have never considered what role animal predators play in the balance of wild and domestic animals. T has an amazing tour and the ideas presented I have been trying to put on paper for two days, but have not been able to concisely present the information. I now have a much greater appreciation for predators and domestic animal parasite control. I think it was a great tour and would reccommend a visit to their website http://www.wolftown.org for the information I cannot fairly pass on. Going to Wolftown was a treat as we got to ride a ferry and drive through beautiful Washington in the sunshine! It was a good day out.
January 12, 2008 If we did not have dairy sheep I think I would look into wool sheep and join a fiber group. Wow. The outpouring of help and generosity from this group is tremendous. Growing up I loved to travel through Oregon to my Grandparent’s home in Medford and see all the sheep in the field. I remember one Easter Vacation we drove down and all the lambs were in the very green fresh fields, it was such a wonder. I, like so many, loved sheep. I tried to find a way to raise them but being a city girl it just was not going to happen. I often drove by a farm on Schueber road that sat up on a hill with sheep in the yard…were they really there or just how I pictured the place? It had a beautiful old house, the paint had all weathered off and it just ached for someone to come love it. When we became aware of our farm going up for sale, Brad and I were in Northern California working on my aunt and uncles walnut ranch. My parents came to see this place with the realtor and my mother told me first off “you are going to love the house it is just like the one you have wanted for years!” And it was, and it still is. We even have the sheep to complete the picture. Now if you had told me I would be raising sheep all those years ago I would have looked at you in wonder. If you had told me I would be raising dairy sheep I would have looked at you incredulously. I always pictured wool sheep in my dreams. I have so many old cross stich patterns with sheep and pictures for my walls. It is fun to be living a dream. I was not even detered by the Ivan Doig books about raising sheep in the cold reaches of Montana. But wool sheep would be a whole new episode for me now. I was just last fall saying I had learned from Gretchen how to prepare wool for market post shearing….well look for it in 2009. As we refit the barn I will turn a corner into a great place to skirt the wool and possibly find a way to clean it. Definitely will outfit a better place to store the wool. We just placed it is black plastic bags and piled it up. Hay fell on top of the bags. I imagine a kid or two tromped over them. Watch out kids mom is taking another section of the barn for off limit use….seasonally. The wool sheep producers have a new web site here in Washington. They had an auction last month to help our flood project along. (It is still hard to say to benefit us…it just sounds so selfish…humbleness is a virtue is it not?) Those intrepid wool warriors are at it again. They have amassed another beautiful array of wool products and other fine crafts in an online auction. I am in awe of their skill and generosity. Some of the wool and products would take me a lifetime to produce. It is a beautiful place to see. Go to http://www.washingtonwool.net . and look for yourself. My hat is off to these men and women who have maintained this age old industry of making a sheared fleece into a work of useful art. I will learn someday. I will have wool growing daily, I saved the spinning wheel, and I have two small looms to start with….It will happen. Thank you so much Washington Wool Producers. Your generosity and energy is Huge!
January 10, 2008 Just another amazing day from the mud flats. We got up yesterday to take the kids to school. We had afternoon places for them to go as we were driving north to buy a truck. Sounds simple. Well first of all we forgot a couple things so after dropping off children we came home got those items and off we went in one of the borrowed trucks we have been using for a month now. It was not raining and I had a my pad of paper and lists of stuff to do we as were going to prioritize projects from here on out. I left two or three lines between each item so we can add or change as life evolves. Like leaving time to change a big tire, on the drivers side ,on the freeway, next to the city center exit in Olympia. Whew. Fortunately we are borrowing this truck from a Contractor. All the right equipment, a nice spare, and Brad had an F250 so he knew where to look for things to get the job done. My main job was to stand on the pry bar to loosen the nuts. I am a pro, call if you have a flat. After this chilling experience we called my mom and asked to borrow her car since we had about a three hour trip to Mount Vernon it was better to be safe than take a chance. So after dropping the kids off at school at 8:15 we got out of town at 11:00. Sigh there went that little list addition of dropping by Brad’s folks in Stanwood. Sorry Paul and Aline. We drove with not a problem to Mount Vernon. Saw a guy in Seattle on a very narrow shoulder with his drivers side tire hub on the ground It could always be worse. Sigh.
Hey, we bought a truck, and while we were driving north two of my Northwest Pediartics Providers brought us a car. We have wheels now. We have a good farm truck with hose out mats, vinyl seats, cranky windows, manual locks, and 6 seatbelts! It also has an AM/FM radio. One of the vehicles we are borrowing has only AM….and only picks up two stations….that are a lot of talk and oldy music…..which is okay….for a while. We have a car that has been through two college students so when my 15 year old gets his permit I will not worry so much. I have not checked to see if it is a standard or automatic. I had Peter drive my Subaru a couple times to start learning a stick shift. We can get these other vehicles cleaned out and returned. A huge THANK YOU TO Symons Frozen Foods and to Matt and Lisa Kemph. We have been blessed with transportation for a month what a blessing to have the time to make careful decisions about a newer vehicle.
That done, by 3:30, we went off to Arlington to see our new sheep at Ninety Farms owned by Linda Neunzig . They are beautiful. We have 10 new Dairy Sheep that were given to us by a Dairy Sheep Breeder in Wisconsin. THANK YOU Deb Bender. They are beautiful, 5 are black with some white markings and 5 are white. We received them just before Christmas. They were delivered to Linda’s farm as she will be breeding them and lambing them and we will get the mommas and ewe lambs here when it is time to start milking. We will have a very good idea of our pasture situation by then. We THANK YOU Linda Neunzig. Wow. We have fielded a lot of offers of sheep and we truly thank all of your. Dairy Sheep are bred to have multiple babies and produce milk to support that many lambs. They also have a longer lactation cycle. Some animals will dry up as soon as the baby quits suckling a good dairy ewe will continue to produce with the mechanical milking . We have appreciated all those offers and have not wanted to offend anyone but good stock is a huge plus to us and Deb we are so very grateful to you and Linda and Ron Keener and Gretchen Wilson, and Gretchen’s mother and……for making this happen. The animals were delivered by Ron Keener. Travels with RonK. He has an RV and a stock trailer outfitted to carry small animals all over the country delivering them from buyers to sellers. He has it organized, clean, comfortable, and is a wonderful host to all the animals he travels about with. Ron was a huge help in this venture as he even turned around to get them in Wisconsin as his speedy trip went faster than all the e-mail confirmations needed to finalize a place for the animals to live. THANK YOU Ron Keener, Travels with Ron K.
As we entered Linda’s Barn we met a very nice friendly animal who looked so much like our Ricki we were amazed…until we realized it was our ram that Alexia Stevens had purchased and loaned back to us to us to breed these new ewes. Ricki is gone but this young ram will bring back some of those wonderful blood lines we were developing. It was such a blessing to see his happy face and his wonderful wooly self. THANK YOU Alexia Stevens for the use of this animal. I hope the girls from Wisconsin have appreciated him as much!
Off to dinner with the Wilsons. We have a cheerleader in Monroe WA. Gretchen Wilson has been cheering us on since we first met her in 9/2000. We visited her after an article by Cookson Beecher appeared in the Capital Press about Gretchen and her Dairy Sheep. We were looking for an alternate milk source for our son at that time. The milk and cheese she served us was delicious and she was very helpful in helping us find our first real dairy sheep. She has been more than helpful in getting our operation going and her depth of knowledge about sheep, dairying, milking and cheesemaking has yet to be plumbed. I call her a leader as she has taken on so much in getting us back together. She has fielded calls, e-mails, and cards. She has wisely counseled us in regards to stock choices and was a major factor in getting us up and going as when help kept arriving you just have to function. THANK YOU Gretchen and Rob Wilson.
Gretchens mother flooded last year in November. It was a mess, I looked at the barn and saw the horses they had to pull out through the cold flooded barn yard. She has given us a refridgerator and she has also been a huge help in getting our animals to the Northwest via Ron and his traveling ark. I thank you too. We traveled home through a pouring rainstorm, ended up getting kids in bed by 10:30. Luckily the younger ones were asleep when I got to Laurie’s house to get them.
Wow life is just good. I see days when I will need to weep but then all these good things come together and how can one lose faith when we have been blessed over and over again.
January 7, 2008 The Crock Pot lady saved my families stomach’s tonight. I was out and about doing all sorts of errands and getting things done . I had just spoken to Brad to fill him in on yet another mind-numbing detail of things to do. I had asked him what we should have for dinner….Woo Hoo when I got home there on the hood of the truck in the garage was a gift from the Crock Pot Queen. We do not know her name, all she says is that she is a former neighbor and she brought us a crock pot with soup. Then she brought a casserole, and now more crock pot meals and goodies on top of that. What a blessing. I do not like to cook. There are those of us who bake and bake well, and there are those who like to cook and cook really really well. I do not know if she is a baker but she is a wonderful cook! What a blessing. I have soup warming as I type and I got a bunch of errands done and bills paid. I even had a few moments to play hot wheels with John before he went off to pre-school today, before he turns five years old tomorrow. Wow. Thank you your Highness of the Crock Pot. I love those things, they hold good food, ease of use and now, in my mind, they hold a whole lot of respect for someone who has taken the time and trouble to cook and deliver her fine meals. People are like that. People amaze me. We have received anonymous donations from incredible people who are happy to give with no strings attached. Who are just amazing to me. I wonder if we have even met???? We have had incredible gifts from so many people far and wide hoping to help the business prosper, or to fund a replacement ewe. We plan to be back up and running as soon as we can. We will make it back only through the help we have received from so many people, churches, organizations and cooperatives. People are incredible. It had been a difficult day today. I finally wept, not just shed a few tears but wept. Our vet bill came for the visit made on December 7th to the ewe who had cut her foot in the flooding and it was infected. I had no vehicle to call my own, I had my sheep at another farm it was 2:00 on a friday afternoon and the vet was out there by 4:00 and had not only served the animal with the cut foot but he had looked at a couple other animals as well. They wrote off the bill. I wept. It was such an act of kindness on top of the others that have come our way. This type of generosity has so richly blessed us I think I finally felt the enormity of what is going on. I think the next phase of greif is anger, or emotion, I would prefer to miss that and just get on to the I am ready to be up and moving. Since I lost most of my nursing and psyche books I can make up all the rules I want, right?
January 3, 2008 Major omission on my part. I forgot to mention the First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue sent down a group on Saturday. They had about 12 people who came brawny and fit and willing to work. We had reports that Twin Oaks Dairy was just getting to the “deconstruction” phase of their cheese room. The one they moved into on December first. They could handle a few more bodies to get all that going and this group being flexible and just wanting to help out went over there to work. I hope the progress they are making there is a good as here. Lizzie Brandt who has been everywhere and offering much brought big…BIG bowls of chili for lunch to both farms and we were blessed. Overflowing with blessings if my mind cannot even recall 12 brawny folks here to get a job done…oh my.
January 2, 2008 Normal?!? We are in our own home, the kids went back to school today, it is Wednesday so there is Youth Group tonight. I think we will try to have a normal schedule during the week and wild weekends. Just like the rest of the country right? Woo Hoo! We did have a wonderful end to the year 2007. It began Friday when we were home trying to get it ready to move back into. We had a work group here from the Christian Church in Olympia. An extra truck showed up and a man on crutches got out. It turns out he was on crutches from an accident that he had here in this barnyard when he was 7 years old and living in our house with his parents the Tramms. It was Gary Tramm of Longview who came to offer us a very special item. He had in his possession a picture of our house and barn that may have been a tinted or painted photograph. The picture was taken long before the road was “modernized” when the road took right angle turns, manageable in a horse and cart or a small truck or car. He had his framed in a beautiful oval frame with a bubble glass on it and he said it used to hang in the front room downstairs that was only used on very, very special occasions. He brought for us a copy of this very special portrait. It is beautiful. So full of the history of the place. The barn was young and not so tired looking. The house wide open, the walnut trees not hiding it from view. The gray building we thought would be a casualty of the flood was up in the air, a three story building housing the cistern that was the gravity water feed to the house and farm. The windmill that provided the power to fill it was also behind the house in view. it was such a gift and so very nice of him to bring that to us in the midst of the muck. We can only yearn for the day when we will see a picturesque place again. Actually come May when the grass has grown where it can and the flowers are out It will be picturesque. We can overlook the mud, it always looks its worst here in January and February. The daffodils are coming out already, I noticed them today!
On Saturday the folks from the Butteville Community Church came to help out. One of their members has been raising dairy sheep and we purchased our ram from her last summer. She not only has forgiven us for the “poor care” we had given her animal but is willing to bring us another one out of her best ewe that lambs out a ram this spring and summer. Thank You very Much Colleen Smith we will be blessed for years to come! The men in this group sprayed and shoveled and cleaned tools. Looked at equipment and helped move things Brad cannot move by himself. We also had two of my cousins friends from Seattle here spraying and mucking and spraying and mucking. All for a cup of coffee. They did get their picture in the local paper! Thank you Brian and Torque. The ladies of the group were the Murphys Oil Brigade. There used to be and advertisement about some women who used a product to clean one of the old and impressive churches in New York or some such place. I had the next generation at my house on Saturday. They scrubbed and oiled and the woodwork looks grand. In fact if we can get pictures posted I took one of windows side by side treated and not. It was very impressive what a band of determined women can do. Murphys Oil Soap and Howard’s feed and wax. Brad’s sister Kathy came down to help and it was a blessing. We took the murphy’s and Howards to the next level. We did the stairs. The stairs were caked in mud and rarely got a rest from feet and mud and water and feet and mud…you get the picture. They have revived. NO BOOTS IN THE HOUSE FROM HERE ON OUT! Kath also did the mud caked dishes and helped the Butteville ladies with the Oak sideboard we brought back into the house to clean and try to repair. It got cleaned but the old Horsehair glue was breaking down so the folks at Up the Creek Antiques are having a go at it. It was a peice that came out of my grandmother’s family home in Missouri that I was able to visit with my parents when I lived in Kansas City for a couple of years. It will have more stories to tell as it ages.
Dan Schreiber returned to visit. He is a reporter and photographer from our local paper, the Chronicle. He was in the boat that rescued us. He stayed at the Adna shelter that first night of the flood. He just moved here from Missouri….is not talking of moving back….he may be waiting for his socks though. He gave my barefoot son Andrew his socks to put on when we were trapped on an island of Highway 6 waiting for the helicopter ride to the shelter. Andrew’s shoes had floated and when we left the house neither he nor John had shoes on. Bless there hearts by Sunday we had 4 pairs of shoes for each of them and I swear they still end up barefoot half the time.
We celebrated the end of the years by blessing the house with the noise of 6 kids, two of the dogs returned home and a New Year’s Eve celebration! We had my parents and Kath for dinner and we popped our party poppers along with you all in the Midwest as we went to bed at 10:00. It was the end of the crazy year.
January 1, 2008 We are on our way, new year new beginnings, new start. It will not be every remodel you have an opportunity to change things once you had the job done. Our kitchen,which we remodeled in 1995, had a wood stove in it but once the chimney started to sag the wall we decided it had to go, two years ago. Now we have opportunity to put cabinets around that wall and omit the large peninsula that was created to complete the kitchen. It will give us lot of different use in the same space. Our younger boys have found an opening between the studs where we had removed a door and are making great use of the hole left when the drywall came down. They can run circles around the house, kitchen to dining room, through family room, into office door then the closet and through the wall into the kitchen again. Simple. If I board it back up prematurely most mothers will understand.
Our cheese cave which floated needs to be moored. Do we really want to tie it down since all the cheese and contents survived it’s ride? Had we had a real building it would have had two feet of water in it and we would have lost the cheese, a fridge and our vacuum sealer. We had placed the container 5 feet from the cheese building. Thinking just a hall way to join them would be good. We found we would really like to make a salting room and place the container on a cement slab…we had discussed how to unhook it from the electricity, move it with a crane, build the slab and foundation for a salting room and then return the cave. How and when would be the best time for that? Questions answered, and steps 1,2,and 3 have already been accomplished. We will placed the cave far enough away to accommodate an 8 foot salting/drying room. Then when Brad is making cheese he will not have yesterdays cheese in the way of today’s make. It will be a benefit of the mess we see now. Check back in April, We at least have to have it moved and ready to receive cheese. The foot print for the salting/drying room will be in place. If there is no room built yet, I will put out a picnic table, or a couple of my plastic therapy chairs. I have several spots about the farm where I have created, or envisioned, a seat to relax in. There usually sits one of our plastic picnic chairs. These are the plastic therapy chairs. I offer them to people who have had a day and would like to watch sheep frolic and play or just eat. Depending on which crowd the chair is focusing on. They are wonderful places to collapse when working around the farm.
Our reach in cooler, which was the “red” cave took a hard hit in the flood. It was a three door pop cooler, which was our original cave, and when we put in the container became our red cave. (The area we used to anoint and store the cheese with B. Linens, a red bacteria) Well its age was showing and the rusty spot on the bottom was what knocked us down two points on our last dairy inspection. So I am sorry to those who liked the Muenster and the St. Helens…it may be a while before we replace the relic…or not. Time will see which way we evolve. The biggest change we may be able to initiate sooner than planned is to put in a retail space here on the farm. So many dreams, so little time and space. Again, new beginnings. We may be able to get that rolling more sooner than later.
We have moved home again. Hooray! Have seen a few mice but so have the cats. Our phone serviced is iffy. We had a lot of ringing then were unable to pick up the call or use the dial up internet. Bless the Qwest service man, he called at 8 pm New Years Eve to let us now it was fixed.
I think my plan remodel the kitchen is moving up on the list. The kitchen walls and the bathroom have 2-3 inch gaps near the floor, these are normally closed with flooring and insulated with cupboards. it makes for a very cold breezy room which may be okay in summer….