2013 Musings

Ocotber 11th 2013,

The season ends tomorrow. We thank you all for a wonderful year. We have been blessed with good health and good milk, good employees and good friends. The farm will be quiet(er) after tomorrow. The last hurrah of the season. Brad will be attending the Washington Artisan Cheesemaker Festival in Seattle. We have been busy the last three weeks. The Wedge Cheese Festival came and went on the 5th in Portland. We had thunderously good weather, warm sunshine, pleasant crowd, good help. I met lots of people who knew of our cheese or were being introduced. Cheese events are fun, Cheeseheads are great!

The weekend before we were at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF). It was a weekend of Thunderous Weather period. Tents blew over, rain came down heavy or heavier, but Bless the Oregonians, and Washingtonians, and whatever ‘Onians that came out anyway. Common comment…. “its’ Oregon, what do you expect!” Fiber Festival Folks are almost more wonderful than Cheese Folks…The ones that knit or spin while snacking on cheese and wine are the best of all worlds! Okay the ones that can knit or spin while snacking on cheese and wine who don’t have to frog all the stitches the next day are the cream of the crop!

But Sunday is a coming. We get to put our feet up and rest until shearing day? Right? Oh well nice thought. I don’t know that resting that long would work out very well for anyone. I am afraid we will be back out sorting ewes into the ram pen so we can make cheese again next year, and Brad will be embarking on a new venture every other week or so…… Cow’s Milk Cheeses!

I went to an art exhibit yesterday at Whitworth University, Pauline Haas who is 90 years old was exhibiting her most recent work. She is amazing. Brad and I attended the same church as the Haas’s 25 years ago when we lived here in Spokane. Pauline still has the same twinkle in her bright eyes as she did back then. She has seen so many students come and go and theories on art ebb and flow. What really made me think about how invigorating this exhibit was is her admitting a revelation about her art work. She stated she always thought of herself as a realist but in putting together her works she realized how abstract she could be and enjoyed that. No boxes for her.

No boxes…..we make seasonal cheeses and it is very fun for us to have a season end, like milking and event season, and move on to the next one. That means our cheeses are seasonal as well. Fresh Cheese and yogurt in the summer when the sheep are in milk. Fresh Ricotta during cheesemaking season too. But the aged cheeses are spaced out so we always have something new coming off the shelf. Currently we have the Tin Willow Tomme out and will continues to have that age in until May or June. The Mopsy’s Best has 10 rounds left for this year and will be made again in February or March to come out in June when the others run out. It all works out so nicely. If we need to change it up and realize we want to do something else…..we can. Like….ta-da…..the Black Sheep Brown Cow semisoft cheese we debuted at the Wedge Festival. We now have access to Cow’s milk and are making two mixed milk cheeses we will be marketing as the Black Sheep Brown Cow Cheese made by the Black Sheep Creamery. Look for an additional label. Look for a new taste. Look for less heavy intense marketing in the summer and a better pace year round. Change is good, Seasons are great, it is the season of slow cheesemaking and experimentation, it is time to stretch and reevaluate our goals and future, no thanks to a box!

June 22, 2013,

It has been a wild and wonderful spring and now summer as of yesterday. I have neglected my posts about the farm….I let the seasonal things take their route. I have mused on seasonal things for several years and it always amazes me that it is interesting to others…..it is just life. But it is life and that is what we see and enjoy and I should never take it for granted. We have the Lambs, the plants, the grass, the milk, the ewes, the wool, the cheese, so many things flourishing as they do and I think it is just routine. Pinch me!

This week was very different though, It woke up my cheesey, wooly, world, I found I sure like my comfort zone.

This weekend was not our norm for this time of year. First of all no markets! What, late June and no Farmer’s Markets! No, Puyallup was hosting Meeker Days. Which is a Festival honoring the founder of Puyallup, but festivals and cheese don’t do well together. What does one do with a bag of cheese on a warm day when wandering around and enjoying a fine day out in Puyallup. Nope, not going to work very well. Then both my helpers for the St Johns Farmers Market had family obligations they were involved with this week….both of them. Since I was to be going to the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene Oregon I was not going to be the replacement, I went last week and it is such a nice market it would not have been a problem to go again…..but no I was supposed to go to Black Sheep……until the phone call, the weatherman made today such a glorious day in the Pacific Northwest, today was deemed perfect for filming. Today we had a film crew show up. Not just any film crew, a very good, very distinguished film crew with an amazing host and accomplished filmers, support crew, and producer. Incredibly we were filmed to be on an amazing documentary of cheeses around the Pacific Northwest by people who do this all over the world. Pinch me, I am still really not cognizant of what they all accomlished in 2 hours! We will make more announcements when the film is done! Woo Hoo

But I still have not made it to the Black Sheep Gathering. I will. Next year I will be abducted by…neighbors…and taken to their lair….the Motel….and forced to drool over fine fiber. I will wear a bib.
So much for Seasonal insanity!

February 18, 2013
Wow 89 lambs now and they are heading to new homes one by one or more at a time! They are so fun, so energetic, so full of life, and just so ready to collapse in your lap when they tire out!
I don’t enjoy lambing at all do I?
I went to a Memorial Service for a family member on Saturday. It was one of those good but final moments. My Uncle had not been very responsive for a couple years and was slowly dying. He passed away in November but the Memorial service was in February when many family members could come. It was a time of celebration of the good things he had accomplished in his very long life. I was made aware, once again, how fragile and tough life is. We are amazing beings, all the organs work in unison to provide life and growth. All our movements, thoughts, reflexes, for good or bad work to make us function and we live in spite of an amazing number of mishaps that can and do occur in forming life. While I was in Oregon Brad, Deborah, Susan and Frank delivered 14 lambs. Big Momma delivered twins even though she has not been able to stand because of her size for a week! Amazing, 15 pounds and 10 pounds! Delilah delivered two, one had some severe birth defects and was not viable. It’s sister is beautiful! What an amazing contrast. The rest, all twins and triplets are bouncing and running and eating and doing all those things wonderful little lambs do It is in these times I have to say God is good and wonderful and far beyond my understanding. I see all the intricate little ways we are unique and perfect, and not so perfect, but somehow, we are all still amazing. Births and Deaths happen all around us, some are happy time, some are sad, some are timely and some are not. I have to believe each is purposeful and used in ways far beyond my sight and understanding.
Here is to 89 lambs and counting. 39 mommas done leaving 34 more to lamb. Amazing life and death in the barn and each of our lives. Make it count for something! I am reminded we are not made by chance, we have a purpose, we are amazing.

February 9, 2013
Forty two babies so far! 18 moms in the milking line-up by tomorrow! Fresh Cheese to go to Portland New Seasons stores next Friday the 15th! Woo Hoo! The season has begun. We have had some very good looking lambs so far this season! What a joy they are. Some are springing around the lamb pen getting all their feet in the air! Annie loves to sit on top of their hay bale and “sun” herself in the heat lamp. She looks very regal! Some are stubborn and take a lot of work to get on the bottle. They fight and fight and then….the light goes on and they are sucking down formula reeling and shivering after they fill their tummy like a little drunken sailor.
In the past 24 hours we have had 15 lambs born, 5 sets of triplets, beautiful!

February 2, 2013 New lambs can make any heavy heart soar. I was watching the babies in the pen last evening and two of them were standing in the middle, under their light. It looked like they caught each others’ eye and, with a wink, jumped for joy. They started a riotous dance as the other lambs caught on and the littlest black one with three white anklets was soon careening about the pen wildly bouncing getting both feet off the ground. Some bounced together in unison and some just got so carried away bouncing they gyrated over to the edge of the pen and when they stopped they almost looked like they had a dizzy moment, paused to collect themselves, and run back the the fray. Then as soon as it started they collapsed in a puddle and rested.
They make me laugh and laughter makes up for losing sleep, eating strange meals, and smelling like iodine and all other things I won’t go on at length about.
I Love Lamb Therapy!

January 26, 2013
Lambing has begun! One boy and One girl from One beautiful Momma.

Enough said!

January 25, 2013 6:00am Okay I just went out to do the first official Lamb Check of the season….nothing going on. But it is official we will be checking for babies 4 regular times a day and night now till Easter. It was very warm this morning outside very pleasant in the barn. The Sheep can be so quiet. Some of the younger ones run, not used to people among them. The older ewes just lay there not even oozing over an inch when I am trying to squeeze between them or step over them. It is a very nice time to visit the barn, quiet and calm.

My thoughts were on shearing this morning. We just sent 50 pounds of wool to be processed into Combed Top for spinning….or hat making or thrumming. I am learning a whole new respect for the clothing we wear. I used to sew my own clothes and worked in a fabric store in high school. I sold fabric. I have now learned to look beyond fabric and see where clothing starts.

The products that come from animal fiber must be harvested, sheared in our case, from an animal who is old enough to produce a nice length of fiber. (some fiber is combed off the animal, think Musk Ox!) The Fibers must come from a healthy animal. One that is stressed will show that stress in the strength of the fiber and it will break at the point where the animal was stressed. We had several fleeces that were broken this year. Whippet’s was a mess but she had two sets of babies…naughty girl, caught up with the renegade ram that jumped the fence. Misty also had a broken fleece but she had a very bad case of mastitis last year and it was very stressful for quite some time. So a healthy animal of a certain age produces a nice length of healthy fiber.

Then the fiber is “skirted”, one must remove all the belly wool, the manure laden wool, burrs, neck wool full of straw, and anything else that you would not want to wear!

The fiber is then cleaned with warm/hot removing the fine dirt and lanolin, or grease, though some yarns leave the grease in to be more water repellent!

Next the picking and carding or combing process opening up the locks of wool and straightening them so they can be spun. Think brushing your hair. It looks and moves much better after running a brush through it and opening up the bedhead in the morning.

Just think of all that work to be done and we don’t even have anything to weave or knit with yet, though the carded wool can be felted to make something warm for those early barn checks but weaving and knitting take yarn, or spun fiber.

Now here is where I get totally lost, think or thick, worsted or woolen, one ply to ten ply soft wool or course wool, sheep, llama, alpaca, angora, pygora…..The fiber is spun into a yarn of various thicknesses and can be mixed with yarn of other species to make a special yarn suited for certain purposes. Sigh in my knitting I have gotten to really like worsted weight yarn, medium weight all purpose big enough to see and get a project done in a suitable amount of time…..but there are amazing knitters out there, take in a fiber festival and be amazed

Spun yarn then is put into a woven length of fabric or a skein of yarn. And that was what I sold at my after school job in high school having no idea what the wool fabric had to go through to get the my store….and I did not even touch dying the fabric with natural or acid dyes, mordants, all one color or variegated……

I did my barn check this morning with my peaceful happy sheep which are sheared, starting to grow next year’s wool, I in my wool vest learning not to take for granted the part they play in keeping us warm, or cool as the case may be.

January 20, 2013
A new year, and a new beginning. Lambs will begin to come soon! Shearing is done and the new wool crop is almost all skirted and is drying getting ready to ship out for yarn and top! Now we wait and watch for lambs and clean clean clean readying the cheese facility for a new season!
Ready, set, go!

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