2012 Musings

December 31, 2012, the year is closing and I think we will chalk it up to a lot of learning and head on into 2013 hopefully wiser. We have good friends and family and we are so thankful!

We all have those years we grow in, I think our business has hit adolescence and we are indeed growing. Sometimes growth is painful and losses occur, sometimes it is raucous, sometimes it is with a joyful noise, and sometimes quiet. We have experienced all the above, as most have.

The highlights of the year were led by the removal of the barn roof, by the wind, in March, in the middle of lambing. Hmmm it was pretty wild and crazy for two weeks. Good things came of it. Brad can sleep now on windy nights. The Barn roof has been a concern for a number of years, in fact we had just gotten an estimate to replace it in the fall of 2007 before the flood hit and our money and attention went elsewhere. The roof blew about 5 in the morning so no one was hurt, the animals were not in the way of flying metal, it did not land on the road in the dark in a 50 mph zone. Daniel came to work that morning and brought tarps and tarps and tarps and covered all the hay and wool. It was raining inside the building. The roofers, when they came, were quite impressed with his tarping skills! To prevent the wool from getting splinters and nails during the removal of all the old shingles it was moved into the house….I will see if we can post those pictures, the pictures say it all, especially for the cats who loved their new bedding!

We went to a local feed this last year and it was not the best for the animals….we had decreased milk supply and many wobbly weak lambs. We learned that local has many advantages but we need to do a lot more research before we go into that 100%. We think we have a much better start on our 2013 lamb and milk records by finding a local grain grower who can mix to suit! Time will tell but the ewes look really good right now.

Wool, wool, wool, that was a big push for 2012. We have developed two lines of wool yarn with the help of Susan and Kevin, who puts up with us for cheese! Susan has used her incredible expertise and abilities to develop two weights of yarn, a three ply sport weight named Chehalis, and a three ply worsted weight yarn named Mima. Wonderfully beautiful they will become available about 3 months after shearing in beautiful hand dyed colors! That is so fun and I have learned so much from Susan and all my other wooly friends. I’ve learned how to knit and dye yarn, spinning will come, along with weaving! Hooray! It has always been our wish to utilize all the sheep have to offer, Milk, Meat and Wool. There is still wool going to Ecobalanza for couch production and anything beyond that is going to a woman who is making her own futon. “The Whole Bufalo” or waste not.

This fall Brad had been putting finishing touches on the “bunkhouse”. It is the old washhouse behind our main home that was going to fall down if not given some additional support. A Contractor friend, Armin Kast, and his crew put a support beam across the ceiling and poured a floor, it was half dirt before. They resided the warped old walls and added doors and windows. They got it weather tight so new Brad is fitting it to be a wool drying and dying room and it will eventually be a classroom to share the wealth and let others see the joy of wool design and color!

I started a dying garden in my old vegetable garden…..most of the year we should keep the shade drawn as I never seem to keep up with the weeding chores but…..I did do a bit of dying with the Purple Hopi Sunflowers,

and the Chamomile.

It is a great and wonderful feeling to watch the wool take on a new color and purpose!

As we head into 2013 we have new purpose the old is gone and hopefully left behind the new year will be bringing new surprises and new opportunities. Check out our new paypal buttons and forgive us as we really learn how to use them!

Wool will be available soon and cheese as it comes of age! Lambs will be grown out to be sold in the fall for meat and as usual in the spring for those who are starting a flock or want to grow their own out…..or there is always the mower fertilizer variety available for those who love the pastoral view and have the space.

Thank you all for getting us through adolescence….perhaps we learn to drive in 2013….

October 20, 2012 This is a guest post, brought to you by Alexis. Meg is out and about today, so I have the chance to spend most of the day with Andrew and John. Ideally, I’d be busy selling cheese to everyone who stops at the farm store, but the weather has been droopy and not many people are adventuring out for delicious cheese on days like today. I made one sale (I can hear Meg cheering as I write that, but don’t get too excited – it was my mother, looking for something to go with spaghetti), and now I’m cuddled up in the house with a cat who has chosen today (after months of me trying to gain his love) to accept my ear scritches and petting. I feel so much pressure, writing a guest post on here, and am hoping I can do my creative writing degree justice.

It really has been quiet around here. All the milking for the season is done, and all of the lambs that were blogged about in the last post have grown into actual sheep. Because everything has slowed down, I haven’t had the chance to spend as much time at the farm, so this Saturday is a wonderful chance for me to remind myself of how wonderful all seasons are on Bunker Creek Road. The leaves are shifting, turning into the proper shades of reds and golds that are stunning against the green of the evergreens on the hillsides. The sheep look like they’ve got too many sweaters packed around their bodies; they move a little more slowly, partially because of the weather, and also because they aren’t stampeding for grain. Everyone is out on grass with supplemental feeding. You could give ten of them an entire field, and they’d still cluster together in one small corner—animal logic doesn’t make sense to me. Hopefully all of the ewes that are in with the rams are on their way to producing beautiful babies. The lambs are what introduced me to the farm, and while it’s wonderful getting to package cheese for sale, nothing is better than a cute little lamb. Now that there are no markets and no milking, there is room to breathe (I say, as I think of all those times I’ve driven by the farm in the last couple of weeks, when Brad or Meg have been outside doing something or another on the farm – do these people ever sleep?).

I was blessed to be able to work for Brad and Meg this spring and summer. I started out as a milker (which was hard, but worth every minute), added a market, and then skillfully broke my foot (honest, Meg, I thought it was a sprain and in no way blame you for letting me walk on it to the car!). Meg and Brad are wonderful enough people that they kept me on and found things for me to do. I don’t like to brag, but I think I am an expert at labeling cheese at this point. The foot has (mostly) healed, and Meg has once again shown how generous she is by letting me borrow her spinning wheel. It’s a huge step up from my drop spindle, and while I’m still learning (new patience, new techniques, new ways of breathing that soothe me after I ply my yarn together the wrong way), it’s been a good way of feeling productive as the weather changes. Hopefully I’ll be skilled enough by next fall to teach Meg!

February 11, 2012 What a week. What a day. Jinx, our Matriarch, delivered today, twins. One healthy 10 pound boy and one perfectly formed 4.5 pound girl….weak but had a bit of fight in her. She was not able to stand so we gave her a bottle and put her under the heat lamp. Frank and Susan got her to stand and syringed colostrum down her throat. She began to swallow and was moved on to the bottle. She took about 1 ounce. Now we will offer the bottle every two hours till bedtime and then I will have to wait to the middle of the night check. What happens, who knows. Placental deficiency? Will she grow to normal? Can she recover growth? With three nurses working here I guess we have to try. Her name is Rosie.
Last night one of our wildest ewes delivered triplet girls, two fluff balls and one with tighter curls. Sheep genetics. So much I have taken for granted. We cross this ram onto this ewe because they are not related, he has come from a milky line and she had a long lactation last year…or she is milky and has black wool and he has a milky dam and we need to breed in milky ewes. We get good animals, are breeding in more milkiness each year. This year we will breed for longer lactation and wool. Wool will be fun to process and play with this knitting thing is kinda catchy.
Wool breeders are an amazing bunch….the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know. It is so humbling. Badger faces, dark fleeces, light fleeces, moorit coloring, mules, staple length, crimp, there is a whole list of coloring combinations with names and genetic traits. Whew, I kinda like breeding for dark wool vs light wool and milkiness. But I will explore the world of wool as we will be getting some of ours carded and spun for fun, ask us how it is going.
February 8, 2012 Ahh lambing. It is such a joy to see good healthy moms deliver good healthy lambs. They are so cute, curious, shy and lovable. The Romney lambs are frisking about with the fresian lambs and doing quite well. We have had our problem deliveries and hope now to have good, easy deliveries that need little to no involvement by the Shepherds or their helpers. And helpers we have. Frank and Susan are back and so much help. They run the lamb barn, buckets, clean stalls, report on mothers in labor and all for fun…..really??? What a blessing they are. Kathy and Alexis have joined up as well for fun…..really???? Kathy understands me so well I just have to look at her with a question on my face and she says really it is okay we love it! Okay, to me it is my work. enjoyable work, but work all the same and these friends of ours are here to help out and enjoy these little lambs and have useful fun. It is all good. I guess I can understand when I look at those cute little Romney lambs just a bundle of fluff.
34 lambs so far and many more to go. I fear Sonata and Cowgirl are lining up to give us back to back quads…..Okay girls just do it during the day.
February 1 2012,
A long silence 2011 was a busy year. 2012 will be also but we will see how it progresses. Shearing is done, the fleeces are drying in my family room…..new fluffy cat blends in with the black wool.
Lambing is on, the first two came last Wednesday. Then seven on Sunday. Two bad deliveries on Monday and Tuesday and now we have 11 lambs in the weaning pen and will soon be milking and making fresh cheese. We plan on delivering fresh cheese on February 15th! Wow.
We begin the season with our shearing party on the first non holiday weekend in January. So the 7th and 8th we sheared 108 animals. They get the spa treatment. Pedicures, haircuts, vaccines….(not a spa option I guess) and a dish of grain to finish off with. The wool is skirted and sorted and sent up to the loft to dry, only it has ended up in my living room 8 fleeces at a time as the snow came and the humidity in the barn was 100%.
Now we lamb. They are about the cutest things I can think of. So cuddly. This year we have a new twist. I got two Romney ewes for Christmas I have become more interested in utilizing the wool and will incorporate some Romney into the Fresian fleeces. The two ewes we got were from different farms. One was being moved and needed a new home, she was much older and quite frankly did not make the move here well at all. We gave her Dextrose, and propyline glycol, then calcium as she got weaker and weaker. She delivered three, we think two weeks early and then she died. We have two of the three lambs in the barn under the heat lamp. Only about the cutest things I have ever seen. I have now figured out where they get the idea for stuffed sheep. These two little lambs are so cute and cuddly but tough too. We have been bottling them The little girl had to have her first feeding via a stomach tube. The boy took the bottle well enough. The girl has not been able to get up on her back legs on her own yet but after 24 hours she is able to stand if place on her feet and even has gotten up on her back legs on her own. She is a tough little one, full of spunk and always seems to watch you as you work. I hope to have Brad post a picture I took. The little eyes on these two are wonderful hiding under a tuft of wool that defines their forehead. They watch you almost coyly. So cute, I did not think I could lose my heart to a lamb after all we have seen but every year I do.

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