Saturday, November 27, 2010

Splitting Wood

You know the saying.. chopping wood warms a man (and woman) twice. It certainly does and at the end of the day that large pile of firewood can make you feel very wealthy as well. With the exception of the normal chores- baking, feeding, ect. the day was spent cutting down trees. Most were hickory trees that are to be used for a "turkey cooking " party always held in late December. We cook turkeys for all of my husband's employees and a few close friends. Usually around 16 or so.
I was in charge of dragging and piling the branches on the trailer while the guys cut down the trees and cut the wood into loadable pieces. We all loaded the wood trailer. Once that was done, my husband headed to the upper barn to get the splitter. I followed along on foot. He hooked the splitter to his tractor and started down the rugged terrain. One large bump was all it took to pop the splitter off the hitch and send it crashing down the hill, headed for the fence. I just watched with horror, hand over mouth, waiting to see where it would stop and what damage it was going to cause. It crashed into the fence and stopped, just popping staples loose and doing little other damage, but was wedged in there tightly. The look on my husband's face was priceless and I collapsed in gales of laughter which in turn got my son hysterical. Doug, was not amused and shaking his head, he went to get a chain to pull the splitter out. Repairs made, we were finally able to complete the task we started, though not without a few more giggles on my part.
It was almost dark when we finished up and I had just enough time to pick a peck basket of spinach, a large bag of lettuce and gather eggs. Looks like there will be lots of spinach recipes on the menu this coming week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


After doing the morning routine of baking, cleaning and laundry, I headed to the chicken coop to check on my two new ladies I brought home yesterday. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase some moran chickens. They lay the most incredible dark eggs you have ever seen and I am so excited to get them. They seemed to be settling in quite nicely with little picking from the other girls. I fed and watered everyone and went to check on the garden. It seems to be very happy with the temperatures of late (30's/60's) and is growing quite nicely. I was pleasantly surprised by the spinach. I had thought our germination was really bad this year. I had a very spotty row but a lot seems to be coming up now. So I spent the next hour or so weeding.

Next on my list was feeding and tending the sheep and goats. This turned out to be not such a pleasant surprise. It seems we had our first fence break- ALREADY. Grrr. So the next hour was spent putting the fence back the best I could and separating all of the sheep. Most went back to their respective pens quite easily. However there is always one that refuses to cooperate and today was no different. One of my younger ewes didn't care to go back to her pasture. I went and got grain and put some on both sides of the fence close to the gate. I managed to capture her and was holding her between my knees with an ankle hooked through the gate and trying to open it at the same time. I thought I was loosing my balance but realized that the gate was being pushed wide open by my 250 pound alpine buck in an effort to reach the bucket that was sitting beside me. Over I went, in a very contorted position and landed with a huge thud in the lovely wet sheep dooky. Surrounded by eager hungry sheep I was afraid of being trampled and I scrambled up in a flash. At this point my pleasant mood was fading fast. Now I was covered poop AND smelled like a stinky billy goat. Yuck. Finally after several more attempts I was able to once again secure everyone. I finished feeding, gathered my eggs and hobbled to the house to take a shower, trying to decide what hurt worse my fanny or my pride. Just another day on the farm...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting Creative With Kale

If one could drown in a kale patch I would have perished this past week. I have picked and eaten and eaten and picked. Not that I am complaining, but there seems to be just so much you can do with greens, being that just plain 'ole cooked greens have never really been my first choice.

And so it began with a kale risotto that was fixed a couple of weeks back. Then, there is always the creamy kale soup. I also cooked a huge pot of white beans with a smoked lamb bone and added kale at the end. The latest is a spin on an old family recipe that used spinach.
Saute about 2 pounds of kale with some chopped onion in butter or olive oil until wilted and tender. In a bowl mix together 1/2 cup of sour cream, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp flour, 1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper to taste. I use whatever cheese I have on hand, this time it was some smoked Gouda but Parmesan or Cheddar works as well. Fold in the greens and bake at 350* for 25- 30 minutes. Pretty tasty!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Icelandic Breeding Groups/ Washing Fleeces

Today I broke the sheep into three breeding groups. I am only breeding 12 ewes this year so each ram will have 4 girls each. Hopefully this will keep everyone happy and fence breaks will be kept to a minimum! This means the lambs should start arriving in April, just after kidding season ends. With the exception of the Nigerian goats, who are due January, most of the dairy girls should be due February and March.

I chose not to breed the ewe lambs born this year in hopes that they will take this extra time to grow and hopefully prove to be more parasite resistance in the future. Wouldn't that be grand.

I also spent some time skirting fleeces. Of the 16 to do, I got 6 done. One of the little moorit ewe lamb fleeces was exceptionally lovely so I decided to keep it for myself. I brought it up to the house and washed it. The fleeces were really clean this year so it only took a couple of soakings and one rinse. Once dry, I carded it up and now it is ready to spin into yarn.
This is how I wash my fleeces:

Run hot water in my washer (you must have a top load machine) with a bit of dish detergent. Gently submerge the fleece. Let soak 15 minutes or so. Spin out water. DO NOT agitate or you will have a felted mess! Take out fleece and fill again. Repeat this step until water is pretty clean. Try to keep temperature about the same each time as extreme temp changes can cause felting too. Rinse the same way. Let air dry on a towel. Once dry you are ready to card and spin.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall Shearing Day

Today was shearing day. Our husband and wife shearing team arrived around one o'clock and the games began. They sheared a total of 18 ewes, 4 rams and 2 angora goats. Of course this being the coldest night thus far this fall, all the critters were a bit ticked at being naked! I will keep them in the barn for the next few days until the weather warms again on Monday. I will then break the sheep into breeding groups for the winter. The angora goats, belonging to my mom, will go back in with the cashmere bucks in hope of some cashgora kids in the spring! I am looking forward to seeing what type of fiber the kids will produce. I understand that it is exceptionally soft like the cashmere, but having much less guard hair.

Most of the fleeces were really beautiful this fall. Very little trash in them with some locks as long as 5-6 inches! The bulk of them were piled on my truck bed to be skirted and handled on Monday as well. What to do with all of the fleeces?! They best will be saved for myself or sold to hand spinners and the balance I plan to ship off and have washed and carded into roving. When I get them back I can then spin them into my own "Lopi" yarn.