2011 Musings

January 31, 2011
20 lambs so far and they are cute as last year! Too cute! The three day weaning process is going well with lots and lots of help. Emily, our intern has moved mountains with us and gotten us to do this weaning program. As soon as we have 20 weaned babies ready to go we will send them off to Yakima where they will be raised, they will probably get to mow a few irrigation fields. What a life. Frank and Susan have been true gems in our program. They come several times a week and get the reluctant babies to drink from bottles. Once on the Pritchard teat, small nipple, they move them onto the larger nipple and onto the Bucket. Once they animals are on the bucket they have the program going for us. So far Susan and Frank are enjoying the time with the babies. I hope so, the little lamb kisses are a nice reward. The older lambs weaned Thursday morning have graduated to the harder rubber nipples. The latex ones are so soft they just glug down the milk. We realized we had given them twice what they should be drinking so we slowed them down. They actually were given the right amount of milk in a day that the formula company recommends and they always had access to milk and grain and alfalfa. With a dish of water on the side. Whew, This is going too well, probably because we only have 20 so far. I can’t imagine having 100 or over 1000!
Well bath time and bed time up at 2 am and up at 5:30.

January 25, 2011
Ahhhh Lambing has begun. What fun and what stories to tell. My kids think I am crazy but…..most people’s kids see their parents in that light a time or two. There is a magic about small fuzzy bundles of curly wool with bright eyes and perky ears on four long gangly legs looking for something to eat. The mothers have generally cleaned them so the wool is fuzzy and they have tufts on their cheeks that look like fly away hair so they appear tougher than they are. But they are tough oh my. They are generally up and rooting around for food within five minutes of birth. Even our little boy who came with one are back was up int 10 minutes and his brother, born breach, was up even quicker than that. Twelve pounds eight ounces plus ten pounds 5. What a load to deliver and both babies came out wrong. We want to see two feet and a nose. Some times the second foot is hiding and is there but this one was not. One foot out a nose and then a hefty pair of shoulders needed to come out full width. Poor momma. If they dive out those big shoulders are extended and are much smoother to push through. She did it with a lot of help. I pulled and Belaz who was here to help held her head. She did fine and then two hours later I had the breech boy, back feet first, at least it was not presenting as a tail. Those are harder as the hips must come through bunched up. Back feet first pull when she pushes and once the hips are out pull the baby all the way so the first breath is on the outside and not inside. She did great. All is well. 6 boys and 3 girls so far! Will keep you posted.

January 16, 2011
We sheared a week ago. The girls are looking very good. Our little black ram that did not look so good is getting better every day. He yells for food every time we enter the barn. That is a good sign. Good news/Lessons learned. I met another sheep farmer in town the other day and we discussed “lessons learned”. Each year brings a new lesson. I wish there was a short course in “the dumb mistakes of a sheep farmer”, but no matter what we can say that about life. We all learn by dumb mistakes sometime in our life……I just seem to do that a lot!

Our new venture will start in three weeks. We have an intern from The Evergreen State College whose project will be to explore a three day weaning program. She will set up the program and run it on her days here and we will follow through on her days off. Wow. What prompted this is an offer on our 3 day old lambs. I hope to sell 60% of the lambs to a woman who is set up to bottle feed lambs and kids. If I have about 50 animals to grow out on bottles/buckets it is a much more amenable venture than the 150 lambs we expect to have. Especially, if Emily does the planning and I am a worker in the process.

Larry Meisegier of River Ridge Stock Farm in Wisconsin has written many a time on the Dairy Sheep Yahoo list his recipe for success in raising out lambs. I think we are in the 10% of sheep dairies who do not pull babies and rear them artificially. I have mixed feelings. Larry’s program, and all the others, make perfect sense, but I will miss seeing the babies with their mothers. But, the bottom line is….we need to make this a sustainable agriculture venture. If I can get only $5.00 more per animal at 30 days then selling them at day 3, netting 30% more milk, and 30% more cheese is very appealing. The estimate is that the lambs drink 30% of the ewes output in their first 30 days. Not to mention the cost of grain has gone up another $2.00 a bag. The downfall is that, as in all babies, mother’s milk is best. Most folks will admit the bottle fed lambs are marginally smaller than those that nurse on their mothers. They do grow to their full potential by two years of age.

Our hesitancy has always been labor. If we have 50 to grow out and have help it is completely doable. I will compare the measurements to those I have had for years on our mother fed lambs. I will determine how I like the outcome from those statistics. But Ii will also hope to pay those bills that pile up all winter when we don’t have the fresh cheese to sell.

We will hope and pray we can learn from other peoples mistakes……and not add this to the list of “lessons learned”.

January 11. 2011
1/11/11 wish that was my birth date, I may be able to remember it then.

Shearing is done and we had a grand time. Many hands make for short work was the motto and I think all of our helpers enjoyed the day as much as I did. It is nice to say I enjoyed shearing as that means we encountered minimal snags and had ample supplies to boot.

Watch what you say at wine tastings…..Frank and Susan and I were talking last Spring at a local winery event, They volunteered to help on the farm. Of course shearing day is the day we need the most hands and they followed through. Amazing helpers. Susan, a nurse,gave most the shots and taught the next “shooters” another nurse and a pediatrician who gave the animals their Tetanus and Selenium on Sunday. That is a huge help. I did not have to worry about a thing, that the site was right, the amount was correct that they might use less care than was needed for injections. Sigh, What a blessing!

Frank is a regular sheep wrangler. Just a few pointers from the shearer and he was getting the girls to line up for their haircuts just fine. The shearer even made a point of telling Frank how well he did, it is often a weak point in our set up. The Shearer always needs a sheep at hand to continue on with his work. If he has to hunt one down he is losing time and money, our job is to keep him at a steady pace so our costs stay steady too. What a blessing to have these two major cogs in the shearing wheel in place.

The fleece skirting was done by our milker Deborah and two Wooly People from Portland. Kat of Katrinaswoolworld.etsy.com and her friend Kristine were wonderful at picking and cleaning and evaluating the wool as they picked and cleaned and Deborah is absorbing it all like a sponge. When Deborah and I are older and grayer she is supposed to teach me all about the wool. I end up running around, or selling cheese at wool events and Deborah is the sponge for information that goes with me. In fact Deborah has my spinning wheel. We are getting there though. I have learned to knit now and just purchased some hand carders……next step the drop spindle. Kat and Kristine were so helpful, Kat has a fiber festival coming up in Portland where she will be using our wool for socks. I am anxious to see how that goes. I have knit several hats now and my next plan is socks. How fun!

The crown Princess of the event is our friend Selena who finished culinary school last year. She came several times last year to help out in numerous ways. She now has some sheep and will hope to milk someday. She and Frank kept the girls lined up well and manhandled the frisky young ones into the chute. She is required to go to the house early on, taste lunch, and “fix”it. I had lamb stew cooked with potatoes and carrots but no herbs yet. “Selena, the crock pot is on the counter go fix it up so it is edible please” I wish she would come every day.

Woo Hoo, Saturday done and only 22 left for Sunday. We all reconvened at 1:00 and were done in quite a short time. Sarah, Kathleen and Megan took on the fleece picking and shots. Sarah and Kathleen came last year and settled right into the flow. Megan is Kathleen’s sister in law and the two of them did injections so Susan learned the fleece picking. Lulu was new this year and is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm from Portland. What a gal, she just mentioned to me across the cheese counter behind which she works how fun sheep are and of course she was invited. She learned a lot, I hope, and was a huge helper. She crochets and has taken up knitting again lately we discussed that those one skein designs are very appealing .

Jess Joseph and Emily got here in time to move the rams into the barn. We had four big ones left to move in, they knew they were out numbered. Very nice. Joseph being another farmer used to making things work with what is at hand made an impromptu ramp for the barn door so the rams could make it up the steps with out breaking a leg or two.

What a weekend and what fun. The only draw back was our little black ram lamb who was in the pen with the big guys, shearing him we found out he wat just skin and bones. Apparently the big guys were pushing him away from the food. He is a mess. Sunday morning I found him laid out in the barn, way too cold for a naked little boy. So he came to the laundry room, got warmed up and was standing before too long. but during the long afternoon of shearing he crashed again and needed more sheep drench and warmth. He is doing fine in the laundry room. He will move out to the barn again in a sheltered area on Thursday. The night time temps are to be up in the 40’s by them. I bought him some sheep candy yesterday. Alfalfa. They love it! So if all goes well and we can find a pasture without too much competition for him he may be just fine. That is the hard part about shearing. You find out what is under all that wool. The girls all looked pretty good. Some of the young ones were thinner than I like but the again can get pushed around. Time and sheep candy will fix that.

All right bring on lambing. we will be ready for those babies by the 26th!

February 23, 2011
Wow where has the month gone! Sophie Ilene is almost 5 weeks old now and ready to wean…..how did that happen? With a huge amount of help and assistance from the ewes to Andrew and John. Our Specialists in Lamb Care,Emily, Frank and Susan, continue to provide the utmost for our little babies. One Hundred and Thirteen so far. Whew. It has been a good lambing season. We have had our losses and our successes. We had two mothers give us quads, lots of twins, and several sets of triplets. We have had really good moms this year, very few refusals and if they refused to nurse their babies we bottled them early and they went to the weaning pen. In years past when a young mother did not want her babies, or a mom who could not count had two or three and she only took one baby we would have to fight her to get her to nurse the lambs because we were not ready to milk yet. This year with a 2 day weaning program we could milk out the colostrum and feed it in a bottle and then the lambs were ours to raise and the mothers went to the milking line-up. We all agree that weaning day is a bit less dramatic than normal. At 30 days we have had ewes and lambs yelling back and forth for 3 days hoarse and so sad. Then there were the mothers who would break through fences to get to her babies. This way weaning the lambs so young they call back and forth for 12 hours or so and then figure it out, milking and bottles. Relief and full tummy. Emily and Susan are the pros at getting the babies to take a bottle. Some of them just fight, or sit there with clenched jaw. Then the light goes on, you can almost see that happen. They suck, and they get milk, then they suck suck and then they are off an running with it and take in 4 to 6 ounces and we have to stop them before they explode! But why do they wait till 2 in the morning to catch on?
I think it has been much better than I had anticipated to wean the lambs so young. One good thing is that I have had much few losses to weak lambs with low weight gain. We can see them in the pen with all their compatriots and the ones that are slow growing or weak are very noticeable. Sometimes amidst all the mothers they small ones can hide, or they are always in their mothers shadow and we do not see them fall behind on growth. The other really nice thing is walking in the barn. No babies to step on. In years past just getting from point A to B in the barn was crazy with lambs sprawled here or there and or zipping past fast. It was cute and fun but…..we have had broken legs from lambs getting stepped on by their mothers and we have had lambs found dead at the bottom of a pile. Last year we had a beautiful ewe lamb that died, squished up against a wall in a sleeping pile of babies and moms. We were in the barn at the time and the kids turned around after all the lambs and mothers got up to get grain and there she was, dead. That is not likely to happen in a puddle of animals all the same size.
The milking bit is a bit crazy. Yellow banded moms are colostrum moms and the green band is the go ahead for milk to make cheese. The colostrum went to the newly weaned pen and the milk…..well three deliveries to New Seasons Market in Portland later is happily on its way to yummy tummys. It is so nice to deliver cheese early to our customers. Cory at the 7 Corners store says customers begin to ask in January, “When is that Fresh cheese going to come back?”. So Nice.
We could not have accomplished all this without our helpers, Our thanks goes out to Emily, Frank, Susan, Jamie, who buys the young lambs we are not keeping, and the crew of nurses, pediatrician and their family who came buy the Sunday we weaned 20 babies at once and bottled the little blighters! What fun and many thanks to all our friend and family for putting up with our craziness during lambing! 10 more to go and we can sleep all night long!

March 22nd 2011, Lambing is over and spring is here, The daffodils are out, lambs are jumping around in the orchard and Fresh cheese is being made weekly. Markets start Saturday and off we go!

This morning our last ewe delivered a 13 pound fuzzy little girl. Big for a first time mother but she did wonderfully and oh so much more wonderful that it is the last one to deliver this season. We are always anxious for lambing to begin and oh so ready for it to end. Markets are ready to start, employees are lined up, tubs ordered and labels have been delivered bring it on…..only let me get a few good nights sleep first.

Now I can hope to deal with the wool in my laundry room. I had selected several fleeces to send out for spinning and they have sat in the laundry room till I had the time to focus on just how to deliver to the mill. That will be important to do as the laundry room aka the mud room needs a thorough cleaning as the season changes from mud and muck to cheese and flowers, it is Spring in the Northwest the sun should come out soon, no?

All is good and we look forward as always to the passage into the next season of our year. Happy Spring!

March 18th 2011, Three more mothers to lamb. Just three. What a good season this has been. Good helpers, good lambing, for the most part, good mommas, some cold weather and frozen pipes but we made it. The ewes did rather well, we had 4 sets of quads born here, enough girls I like the twins and triplets are okay but 4 gives me a litter to feed! The new girls are lambing now, we have had a couple refusals, one would have loved her baby to death. Only would feed it if we held her head otherwise she just wanted to lick and gaze upon her creation. It was so sad to take it away from her but it needed to eat and that comes from the other end momma! The bottling has gone much more smoothly than I could ever imagine. Thanks 100% to Emily and Susan and Frank. We could not have done all this without their help. We have been delivering fresh cheese to Portland for several weeks now and Brad has some beautiful Basque Style cheese aging in the cave, along with a lot of Feta, Mopsy’s Best, St Helens, Ricotta Salata, and Mizithra! It is a great beginning. I just need these last three to deliver so I can clean my house!

I got the taxes to the accountant today, finally! That is a huge weight off my shoulders, Market applications have been sent out and even the proper permitting for Proctor. I will send in the Puyallup permit as soon as I know we are in! This year we plan to attend

Proctor Farmers Market in Tacoma, starting 3/26

Puyallup Farmers Market, Puyallup, starting 4/16

Moreland Farmers Market, Portland starting 5/18

St John’s Farmers Market, Portland starting 6/4

And The Community Farmers Market in Chehalis starting 6/14

I also want to go to a new market in Ilwaco for June to August but need to really see if we have adequate employee time to add one more. The beach each Friday Afternoon sounds pretty good to me!

New Lambs, New Cheese, New Markets we are on a roll, Deborah and Jess are back with us but now joined by Olive who milks 5 mornings, and Kylie will be doing some marketing for us. Danielle will return after she gets back from working in Tuscany and visiting Morroco! Wow. We are hammering out scheduling details now so all the work gets done but no one gets beat up over it. That is a challenge sometimes as it is hard to know how much work there is till it is overwhelming you!

Wish us luck and we look forward to seeing you at Market or at our Farm Store almost ready to be really open on Saturdays!

April 30, 2011 Markets are going, The Seattle Cheese Festival looms (May 14 and 15) School for the kids will end soon milking has been going on for 3 months now. How does that happen? We have a full complement of workers and they are great. I am not doing a Saturday Market this year…..I dug up my old garden bed and hope to have vegetables from our land again. It has been 6 years since I have had a regular day “off” I will run the farm store here on Saturday but as long as folks know this is a farm and the farmers wife is happy to wear dirt every now and then they are welcome to shop! And darn I am just forced to stay at home and putter which I dearly love to do!

Tomorrow is May and it promises to be glorious! 68 to 70 degrees is a perfect day here in the Northwest in Spring! sigh! It was the wettest March on record and the 2nd coldest April on record so bring on May and those flowers and that sunshine and glorious days! Today I got up early and packed the truck for Danielle to go to Puyallup and Kylie to go to Proctor. In another month we will have 3 Saturday markets! Jess will go to St Johns. Moreland will begin having market May 11th and the Chehalis Community Farmers Market to begin June 14th which is perfect the kids get out of school on the 10th, Peter graduates on the 11th! Wow, top ten no less I am so proud of him! Trips to Ione to get milk have begun and Terry is doing wonderfully so lots of Tin Willow Tomme to be available in September. Our new Basque cheese is delicious that will also be out in September. It is fun to try new things and bring out some older cheeses. Brad made Muenster that was always a fun one generally very moist. Danielle is the cave queen. She has whipped all those delicious little cheese into great shape. I looked in there this morning as I readied the market supplies and it is beautiful. We have been experiencing a beautiful blue bloom….only we do not make blue cheese so she a diligently wiped and rubbed and washed the blue away and the Mopsy’s and the St Helens are developing a beautiful rind. All is good.

Jess keeps up with the fresh cheese and yogurt development. I was put to the yogurt task one week and let me say I will not be doing that again. I don’t know what her magic is but the rich and thick yogurt develops to perfection for her! Jess will go to Heymann Whinery today in Chehalis for the local Chehalis Valley Winery Tour! we now have 8 winerys here in Lewis County. Splendid.
Well the Saturday am scones are done I will get the food to the table and enjoy this day! I do hope you will too!

August 8 2011, Wow, where has the time gone to? I have not even had a fleeting moment to consider the life of the farm. I have been eyeball deep in living it. It has been a great summer, I know there is still half of it left by the calendar but I am ready to change to fall and a different way of life, and so are the sheep who rule such decisions in our lives.

The girls are ready to be done milking. they will hang in there for a week or so longer but they have produced for a good long time this year, starting in February. So milking will end soon and with that we will bid adieu to the Fresh Creamy Spreadable cheeses and Yogurt that people love so much. It is always hard to see the crestfallen faces as they approach the stand looking for their favorite flavor of Fresh Cheese. Done, Gone , Seasonal, Sorry. And I really am because I like it too, but for the farm the pace changes. The sheep will be milked once a day for a while relieving a lot of pressure on Brad and Danielle. Tuesdays and Fridays are much less hectic. No long days mixing and packing fresh cheese. School is looming! We take a boy off to College in two weeks! Oh my! Fall whispered to me yesterday. It was cool then the sun came out and warmed us up after the clouds burnt off. I thought of apples and pies. But before I get all dreamy I had better weed the garden, buy a box of peaches, and organize and prepare for 5 markets a week till Labor Day Weekend. Just a momentary lapse of longing there for a slower life.
New this week to market was the Muenster…..stinky. There are those who will like it lots…. and those who will not, for those we just smile and say the texture is really nice, knowing that you can please some of the people some of the time…..It is always fun to sample the cheese at Market. Try some and let us know what you think!

September 14, 2011 So another season is soon to end. I am exhausted and ready for a break. It didn’t seem like we did that much more than normal but we did. This year with the2- 3 day weaning of the lambs we hit the floor running. We were lambing, bottling babies, milking, and making cheese, boom, right off the bat. We have had wonderful employees this year but it was busy. We added another market. Other markets stretched their season into April so we began earlier than normal. Then there were the trips to Ione to get Terry’s milk every 10-14 days for April, May, andJune. Wonderful trips and good time to talk to Terry Felda our fellow dairyist in Eastern Oregon. (Responsible for the milk in the yummy Tin Willow Tomme to come out next week!) The calendar noted summer was upon us, graduation came and went and now the big boy is off to college! Yikes. Two younger kids in school, flu shot season to start soon, my cheese season is over. Employees are drifting off to their winter pursuits. The milk is all but done. We will finish up our Farmers Markets this week with the final hurrah in Moreland set for the 28th. Sorry but, big inhale, Yeah!!!! it has been a glorious but long season!

We do have two events scheduled. The Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival will be September 24th and 25th. I am so anxious to go. I get to fall and my creative side that has been buried in cheese comes out. Brad makes the cheese I am the organizer….in the fall my color desire erupts. I want to Quilt! Last year I learned how to knit. I want to look at those yarns, the fabric, feel it put it together in patterns and colorways that bring peace to my eyes and a comfort to my mind and heart. I love color and I miss not being creative. So fall comes, the world’s palette is full of my favorite colors, reds, oranges yellows, greens, browns even the rich deep black of the good clean dirt. I get to rejoin my quilting group whose members even taught me how to knit. Time to rejuvinate myself. Last year I got a bunch of books on natural dyes and even how to grow a dyers garden. I would love to process some of our wool……..someday!

The other big event will be the WEDGE in Portland October 8th. We have done this festival twice before and they are promising bigger and even better things this year! So look for the Wedge in Portland at the Green Dragon, even sounds fun.

After that we get to slow down, plan, look at changes to be made. We have a lot of the aged cheese that we will sell over the winter which is good! 18 rounds are going to Provvista today so Black Sheep Creamery will be found over the next several months at various stores and restaurants in the Northwest. We have shipped twice to the Four Seasons in Seattle, The Cheese Bar at 60th and Belmont in Portland has been a wonderful customer, also at Beechers in Seattle, DeLaurentis in Seattle, The Calf and Kid at Melrose Place in Seattle, New Seasons Stores throughout Portland. Look for us we can be found!

Also we are hoping to continue Saturday hours here on the Farm 10 to 4.
Sigh time for a change….soon…..today I go to Moreland Farmer’s Market and deliver cheese to the Cheese Bar, the new New Seasons store in Beaverton, and then home at 10pm and work tomorrow, October is coming!

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