Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Seeds

When the seed orders start arriving, I am always more than a little disappointed that what seems like a fairly large investment actually fits in (yes, inside) our mailbox. (It’s a good-sized mailbox…but, still)  It seems that it should come special delivery…on a truck…with some sort of fanfare. There are a number of orders in a number of boxes, but still…a cardboard box in the mailbox is kind of a letdown.  It always seems SO small. And all those little seed packages inside seem so very…well, little.

All those little packages represent a sizeable (to my mind) investment and honestly, they look really boring.  No pretty pictures, no special instructions…just bunches of little labelled envelopes.  It certainly doesn’t look like much.

Boring or not…those little envelopes represent a great deal of our income.  With the proper starting techniques, good growing conditions and expert care and harvesting…we will eat incredibly well and have delicious vegetables for our customers all year long. The potential earnings from that small boring box in the mailbox are more than a little surprising to some folks. 
For years and years, we have made our living from what amounts to little more than a handful of seeds.

…and for this, I am incredibly thankful.

Seeds allowed us to teach our children some incredible life lessons as they worked alongside us on a daily basis.  Seeds (the crops grown from them) have fed our family well for years. Seeds have made it possible for us to make a living on our small piece of land and even give to those in need.   

With every handful of seeds, I see hope.  Each little seed carries the ability to grow and reproduce…the potential to feed someone. No matter how small the seed, it has the miracle of life within it.  That thought amazes me.
 Every. Single. Time.

Those seeds (and subsequent seedlings) are a tangible reminder of the faith and hope that sustain us and keep us motivated to continue growing despite any hardships that come our way.

So, as I finally get the seed order off the kitchen table and filed away in the seed cabinet…as I clean the greenhouses in anticipation of starting the transplants for the first field crops of ’14 on Monday…as I anticipate the day when we are harvesting the warm, juicy tomatoes and the crispy, crunchy cucumbers (among other things)…

I will give thanks for the seeds that make it all possible!  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 1-26

from the ram paddock (morning chores)
The story this week has been the cold and the wind…and snow. Temperatures in the single digits, at least 5 inches of snow and the relentless wind. (not that the wind is anything new)  While it’s colder and windier elsewhere I am sure…it is really cold and really windy here on the hill!  And, I can’t say that we’ve been enjoying this weather---at all.
from the ram paddock (afternoon chores)

Except for Gus.  He loves the wind and the blowing snow.  …and doesn’t seem to understand why no one is interested in playing with him. But, his antics are amusing (when we’re not distracted by freezing to death).

only Gus could have this much fun with an empty cat food can!

We are stuck in a perpetual cycle of on with the hat/coat/coveralls/gloves/boots and then off with the hat/coat/coveralls/gloves/boots again.  Every time we go out to check on the animals, gather the eggs, get some firewood, feed the bottle lambs, open/close/irrigate the greenhouses, we have to go through the same routine.  It’s getting a little old to say the least. …and unfortunately all the off and on again disrupts any sort of work rhythm—okay, that’s my excuse any way. To make matters worse, the office is the furthest point from the woodstove, which means I may suffer frostbite while sitting at my desk. (only a slight exaggeration)
There are some amazing icicles
(no, not in my office)

One of us is marking a milestone birthday…it ends in “0” and is a half of something or other.   So, the whole family gathered at Tbone and Blondie’s last night for delicious food and family fun.  …and the Beermeister and Toughchick picked a great movie that we all enjoyed.  A good time was had by all and I got some really cool presents, hand-made by my talented daughters.  I love these people!
Ain't this birthday cake PURTY?

a hand-spun crocheted lamb
on a customized laptop sleeve
(photo doesn't do it justice)

After yesterday’s moderating temperatures (we actually reached 30*), snow was blowing at a furious rate when we returned home last night. There are little drifts in front of the shop and the barn. …and the bitter cold has returned and it is supposed to get colder!  But, rather than whine about the weather (I’m saving that for another post) here are a few pictures from the other side of Mbrook.  From this perspective, I can understand why some people think we live in the middle of nowhere. ...and again I'll say...we are blessed to live in a beautiful place.

we are located at about 3 o'clock in this picture
it looks like we're tucked into the trees
not perched on top our hill

I truly hope that you are warm and cozy and enjoying a very

 Happy Sunday!

I also hope that in the upcoming week we can find a way to adjust to our new frozen farm life.  It has been warmer in Alaska than it has been here….for at least a week.

Have a good one, y’all!  Come back soon!

Thanks for reading.  Please come back again and visit.  So you won’t miss any of our posts, follow us by email…over there in the sidebar.
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Just Call Me Maaa-aaa!

Come on babies…get up…everybody up!

As the sleeping lambs wake and stretch, I continue my rounds in the barn.  Jostling a few here and there, clapping my hands, I rouse the others.
Wake up, babies!

It’s time for breakfast!  Come on y’all!

In the winter time, morning chores start with a wake-up call for all the lambs.  Only after I’ve watched them all get up, stretch and react to the morning do I go and get the grain bucket.

I don’t do this simply because I like the whole “wake-up” duty.  Although I am pretty good at it, having honed my skills on a very hard-to-rouse teenager some years ago.  Part of my job as shepherd is to assess health, and there’s no better way to do that than to observe a lamb as it wakens.

a good long stretch...

Healthy, hearty lambs stand up and
 str-e-e-e-e-e-tch, then they shake themselves and make some sort of little noise as they head off to find mama and get their little sip of morning milk.  At this point, they generally play with the other lambs, leaping and running around the barnlot.  Any other type of behavior generally indicates poor health.
...and it's time to play

So, when I saw one little girl hunched up under the light, I got a little concerned.  Realizing it was the same one that had been screaming intermittently for the better part of two days, I got even more concerned. It was obvious that she was chilled when I picked her up, her little hooves were like ice and her ears were very cold.  But she would suck my finger and her mouth was warm inside.
pathetic little girl

At first I put a little jacket on her, hoping if she retained some of her own body heat she would feel better.  I also gave her a little dose of vitamins…sometimes that helps.  Nope, she just stood there with her back hunched and looked miserable. As the smallest of a set of triplets, she’s been on my radar for a couple of days.

She was quite cold, she wasn’t yelling anymore, and she was fairly lethargic.  *sigh*  It was time to head to the “hospital pen”.  Tucked inside my makeshift hospital with the original bottle lamb, she still didn’t have much kick.  He seemed to appreciate the company, though and after he downed his bottle, he snuggled in for a nap under the light.  After she warmed for a while, I attempted giving her a bottle. (after being with her mom for nearly a week, I figured this adjustment would take a while) She drained every drop! 
hungry babies

By the next check, she had figured out the whole bottle thing completely.  She drank all of her own bottle and tried to drink his.  Within twenty-four hours, she had completely revived and was hollering away every time she didn’t get a bottle. Then, they figured out how to escape and look for bottles on their own.  (the Boss was called in to rectify the situation)
escapees in the shop

So, it looks like I have become a mother yet again.  

We now have two lambs living in the shop…hoping for warm weather so they can relocate to the barn.  Right now, I’m thinking it will be July before they move.(...oh...the weather...)
"Mouthy" and "Pooter"

As a testament to my “utter creativity” when it comes to naming animals, they have become “Mouthy” and “Pooter”.  Why? You ask.  Well, because she is….and unfortunately, well…he does. …and it’s funny. Believe me…right now I need funny.  The horribly cold weather is making farm life fairly miserable for man and beast. All the animals are eating constantly just to maintain their body temperature. We’re staying busy checking on them all, hauling hay and water and the Boss has to gather the eggs every hour just so they won’t freeze.

Then there is the ever insistent…


‘scuse me…I am being summoned.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Sleep

There’s an old saying that “you don’t miss something ‘til it’s gone”. …and it truly applies to sleep. 

Everybody sleeps, and we don’t take time to appreciate the fact that sleep is a blessing as well as a necessity. As a matter of fact, we don’t think bout sleep at all.  We take it for granted that at the end of the day we can lie down and close our eyes. Sleep seems so overrated.  If I didn’t need sleep, just imagine how much more I could get done!

But, at the end of every lambing season, after two+ weeks of near total sleep deprivation, my appreciation of sleep, uninterrupted and in a comfortable bed, has been renewed.  An hour or two, in a chair or the floor by the woodstove simply doesn’t have the restorative powers of real SLEEP. Normal human brain function is dependent upon regular sleep.  …and my personal shortage became obvious on more than one occasion.

My nocturnal trips to the barn are necessary even if they are uneventful.  Without physically being with the sheep, there is no way to know if there is an emergency.  For instance, if I hadn’t been there to help the old ewe with the big lambs the other night, in all likelihood we would have lost the ewe and the lambs. A loss we could ill afford.

Now that the lambs are all on the ground, and the bottle lamb has “graduated” to just four feedings a day, I can once more return to my regular trips to the “land of Nod”.

To say that today I am thankful for sleep might sound a little silly. But, my lack of regular sleep made me appreciative of any and all sorts of sleep. Yes, I am thankful for catnaps, nodding off, afternoon siestas and catching 40 winks…no matter what you call it…

Sleep is a wonderful thing. 



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Turn Out the Lights

Turn out the lights
The party’s over
They say that all good things must come to an end
Call it a night
The party’s over
And tomorrow starts the same old thing again.
                                                                Willie Nelson

time to put the heatlamps in storage
and go on to other things
Well, it’s done for another season. 

Just like that…we’ve reached the end of lambing season. It was short and slightly intense, but we can consider it a success.

We ended up with 24 live lambs this year.  In some ways, that seems like far too few. (I would like to have LOTS of would be nice to be impressive for once) But, when working in the barn, those “few” lambs and their mothers seem to take up every square inch of the place.  It’s a wild place down there with the babies running and jumping and getting in the way.

With the exception of “Moose”, the single lamb born Dec. 30, 2013, all the lambs were born in a one week window of time…10 being born in a 30 hour stretch.

…and here are the stats.

200% birthrate! 
3 sets of triplets
2 single births
15 ram lambs
9 ewe lambs
1 bottle baby
1 stillborn
Largest AND Smallest of season in same family—one set of triplets – 14.8#, 6.5# 
                         the third triplet was  10.4# (POOR mama sheep!)
Least amount of shepherd assists – 2
Best weight at 2 weeks – 30#
Trips to the barn – lost count

While I love lambs and lambing season is an exciting time, I’m also happy to see it end.  That going to the barn in the middle of the night is hard…real hard.  Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m getting soft, but it feels real good to sleep straight through the night, snuggled under the covers of our own bed.

The population explosion in the barn was perfectly timed.  Today, we are under a Winter Storm Warning with the current accumulation prediction being 6 to 10 inches (it has increased each time I’ve checked the forecast). Wednesday and Thursday we are in for frigid temperatures and lots of wind as the Polar Vortex makes a return visit.  So, it’s a very good thing that all the babies have arrived and are in good health.
robust lambs and good moms will come through the cold with no problems
Today, we will pull the jug pens apart and take one gate off the hinges to make a little more room for the ewes to lounge and ruminate and the lambs to run and play.  It looks like they’re all going to be stuck in the barn for a while. Any snow we do get will be here for a while judging by the predicted temperatures.
takin' it easy

Once the jug pens are dis-assembled, the heatlamps put away, all the lambing towels washed and dried and the vet box cleaned and organized...we will move on to other things. (snow removal comes to mind)  Yes, we will leave a heatlamp or two in the barn for the upcoming frigid nights, just in case.

It’s time to get the greenhouses neat and tidy and ready for the growing season.  In just a couple weeks, we will be starting the seeds for early season transplants. Any work with the sheep will be more maintenance and healthcare and watching "el lambo cross".  I observed the first halting attempts at the racing season yesterday.  Check this out!

the last set of triplets
30+ pounds and twelve legs
Poor mama sheep!

Yes, it’s always a bit of a let-down when lambing is done, but it’s always encouraging to see how fast those little guys grow!  

And, there’s something to be said for the “same old thing”.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 1-19

This week has had moments of total adrenaline rushes countered by moments of complete and utter nothingness. It’s been a week of very little sleep, lots of trips to the barn and far too much coffee. My memory is shot, all my coveralls are filthy and I’m pretty sure I need to wash my face. Lambing season has hit the peak of intensity in the past few days.  Nothing like some farms which boast a lambing every hour for a week or so…

just a skiff of snow 
But, since last week’s walkabout, 
22 lambs have arrived here on the hill.
Most of them came into this world with little or no emergency assistance from the shepherds. That’s the way we like it, but, we’re not quite done yet. If you missed my posts from earlier in the week, you can read them here... and here.

newborn triplets under the glow of the heatlamp

As of right now, there are three, yes, THREE sets of triplets. That’s the most we’ve ever had in a single season.  It looks like each ewe will be able to provide for her little family without any help from us. (except for the case of my bottle baby—who is thriving, thank you very much) The fact that the ewes won’t need assistance is pretty amazing, considering sheep only have two teats.
the oldest triplets
also known as "the trio of trouble"

Friday night, the Boss ended up getting drafted into the whole going to the barn in the middle of the night thing as I worried over one ewe.  After watching her labor futilely for over a half an hour with a second lamb, I woke him up to help me. (the first one was up, dry, had eaten and was roaming around the barn) Of course, by the time we returned to the barn, #2 of 3 was on the ground and looking around.  #3 followed quickly. We cleaned them up, tucked the whole family in a jug and the Boss went back to bed. I felt more than a little bad for disturbing his sleep for nothing.  Although, he did admit the snow in the bright January moonlight was a beautiful sight.

Later that night (early, early morning) old ewe seemed to be having a hard time, so I kept a close watch in order to know if I should assist. And, assist I did. At three o’clock in the morning, I found myself lying on the barn floor, helping her deliver twin ram lambs.  Big, hearty fellas.  As we cleaned them up, it became obvious that one had very little (if any) strength in his back legs.  Meaning…he couldn’t stand.  If a sheep can’t stand, (particularly a lamb) it can’t eat. If it can’t eat, it will die.  I cleaned him up, held him up to his mother’s teat so he could drink the life sustaining colostrum, said a little prayer and went to the house.  I guess it’s a sad testimony to the smallness of my faith when I admit that I was surprised to see him standing up, nursing his mother when I returned to the barn a couple of hours later. But, I did indeed give thanks for the miracle.
Mom Sheep and babies snoozing after delivery

In the light of day, it is evident that his back leg is bowed outward at an awkward angle.  This is probably due to the crowding while inside the ewe and should correct itself in time. He seems to be healthy and hearty other than that. All in all (so far) it’s been a great lambing season. I’ll give you all the particulars next time.

With the exception of lambing in the sheep shed, the farm is somewhat boring in mid-Winter.  It’s too cold to do much outside and too early to get too many seeds started. It’s a good time to get a handle on office work, do a little extra writing and prepare for tax season.
the warmth of the backyard makes it nice for napping dogs (and cat)
but, napping makes it hard to get in the greenhouse!

But, in other farm news...

The hens have been escaping with some regularity.  It isn’t a mass exodus, it’s only one or two and it's not every day.  They are in search of something tender and green as the chicken yard is bare and frozen. (can’t say that I blame them at all) I took advantage of the escaping chickens to further educate Gus. He needs to learn not to hurt (read eat) the chickens but to guard and protect them.  He responded well to my commands and the hen was returned to the pen unharmed. Although she was heard regaling the rest of the flock with the story of the whole ordeal for quite some time afterward.Gus was feeling a bit enthusiastic about his success and got a little too close to the electric chicken fence with his nose.  His pathetic yelping could probably be heard for miles!

while they're not herding dogs, they do make chicken-catching easier

Unfortunately, it looks like we will need to re-plant a good deal in the hoophouses, as the Polar Vortex was not kind on its last visit and is set to return this week.  When I wrote about lettuce and freezing temperatures a few weeks ago...I did NOT write about lettuce and -3*! Did you read this? It's a sad and dismal sight and I'll spare you the photos.  But, it is the middle of Winter, so it’s not totally unexpected. The last of the seed orders have been placed and we’re waiting their arrival…and anticipating Spring. I'm anxiously watching that little count-down ticker in the sidebar!

It’s a cold and blustery day here on the hill.  The sheep and lambs are all hunkered down in the barn away from the frigid breezes. The woodstove beckons.  

Tess looks warm and comfortable. 

…and I hope you are too!

Happy Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by!  Please come back and visit again.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thankful Thursdays Re-visited

You never know where or when inspiration may strike.

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I am participating in a challenge where you write 500 (at least) words every day.  See the little badge over in the sidebar?  So far, I have managed to be meet or exceed the goal, but most of the words I’ve been writing will probably never end up here on the pages of the farm blog.  I’ve been using my 500 words to work out issues from the past that have been hanging around in the corners of my mind for far too long, fogging up my thinking more often than I'd like. …and it’s helping, so I’m very thankful for this challenge.

Another reason to be thankful for the challenge is that lots of other writers are sharing lots of other things that they have written.  There are some amazing authors out there that most of us have never heard of. I am excited to learn of new blogs to follow and read other folks perspectives on all sorts of things.  This is another way I’m thankful for this challenge.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering WHAT any of this has to do with the farm…or this blog…

Yesterday, one of the challenge participants noted that she had posted a THANKFUL THURSDAY every Thursday for 2 years.  2 years!  …and she’s been through some really tough stuff in the past two years.  I know, I looked.

Back in 2012, I had started to post Thankful Thursdays myself, in an attempt to focus on just how very blessed we are here on the hill. (here is the first post) …and I did pretty well…for a while. 

But, this year I haven’t posted any “Thankful Thursdays” at all.  Not because I’m not (thankful) …but, life got busy and I’m beyond tired right now and my priorities got a little skewed. It’s much easier to goof off on social media than sit down, compose my thoughts and write coherently.

However, there is much for which to be thankful.  Very much indeed!  So here’s a thank you to Sarah Fortenot (who may have no idea I exist) for reminding me, inspiring me to make sure that I actually express the thanks that I feel for this life that I am privileged to lead.

I’ve missed writing the Thankful posts.  Those posts shift my thinking and make me see things (even the bad experiences) in a new light.  When I remember that “all things work together for good”  it is much easier to “in everything give thanks”. And despite the fact that my “thankful Thursday” is going to get posted on Friday (okay, so I wrote it on Friday, too) I am inspired by the blog "Fontenot Four" to be Thankful on a regular basis. 

Here are just a few of the things I’m thankful for this week…and the reasons I have been distracted.  yes, they are one in the same---


We're a little more than halfway done with lambing for the 2014 season.  So many reasons to be thankful!