December 25, 2009 Whew it has been an amazing month. It is Christmas day. Breakfast has been served. Gifts have been opened. We have a few moments to relax before we go visit with family. My sister is coming from North Carolina today. She has not been out here for 8 years! It will be so good to see them and entertain them tomorrow. They used to live an hour away and came every Christmas morning for our traditional Corn Beef Hash and Apple Pie Breakfast. Now they are traveling here from seeing more family in Alaska. Today Christmas dinner at our parents' home tomorrow we do the whole Breakfast thing again......I tell you it is just breaking Peter's heart, at 17 he can handle that!
The Barn has been readied for lambing. We have a few more feeders to repair and build but we had an early gift to get that ready. Selena is a culinary student from Seattle who has a great interest in dairying. She has volunteered to come down and help out a bit. Many hands certainly makes for little work. We got one side of the Barn cleaned out and once we have feeders ready to put in place we will have spare lambing room. We will be able to rotate sheep from one side of the barn to the other and clean as we go!!! I think the folks at the Issaquah Methodist Church will shout Amen to that. They came down last April and helped us clean out last years accumulation of manure and bedding. It adds up after 3 months.
Shearing supplies have been ordered early this year. Last year I waited til the end of December to order Syringes and vaccine. They sat on I-5 during the January flood closure of the freeway and were delivered the day after we finished shearing. It is easiest to give vaccines, trim feet, worm and do all the "maintenance" work at once when we have all the sheep in one place. All will be handled, all will be assessed, all will be sheared and trimmed, no hiding from our watchful eyes.
We have had a blessed year and pray you have also. 2010 looms close. What challenges await? Let's find out!
November 29, 2009 It has been a wonderful Thanksgiving week. The Ewes are all home and happy to be in the loafing shed. We will let them into the barn at shearing time when they need a bit more protection. The rams now have a dry house, their shed filled with mud, our drainage is not what it used to be. There was a group of teen boys here yesterday who helped Brad move the shelter to a new location. They have a dry home now. The new pasture for my lambs is coming up. We got that in right under the wire and were praying for 3 weeks without a hard frost. It is showing a slight green fuzz now and should be ready in the spring or summer for lambs.
The boys have all had their school conferences all are doing well. We have one who will begin the college search. He is not our farmer, that is okay. He helps out a lot around the farm and house and rarely complains but it is not his love at 17. The youngest will be a great milker. He wakes up at 5:30 or 6:00 some mornings ready to go, he doesn't even need coffee that early.
I cooked a Leg of Lamb for Thanksgiving. It had a pomegranate sauce. We have a winter CSA box from the Boistfort Valley Farm. I roasted carrots and parsnips, baked delicata squash and mashed yellow finn potatoes. It was a wonderful dinner and I have to say even more fun to prepare. Heidi Peroni sends along recipes with the CSA box and I have been having so much fun preparing the vegetables and fruits that arrive weekly.
We arrive at December this week, then Christmas and the new year. Shearing will be done in January and then the New lambing season is upon us. We have much to be Thankful for.
November 21, 2009 It has been a week of little sleep but no flooding this time around. The winds howled around the house and barn and the waters rose but only into the low lying fields. It is a relief to see the river in it's banks again and the worst of the winds should be over by today.
Brad is finishing a fence....damaged by the last flood. He should finish it all today and will figure out how to drop the wires to avoid it being filled with debris in high water and toppled over.
Brad went to Albany NY for the annual meeting of the Dairy Sheep Association of North America. It was grand, he learned lots. We have so much still to learn and so many studies and improvements are being made in the dairy sheep industry it is good to take advantage of such knowledge. I was extremely jealous though he got to tour Old Chatham in New York. Wow. He did bring back some Camembert from Nancy Clark. sigh
We went to Steve's Cheese on the 15th of November for his annual anniversary party. It was a fun day, wine and cheese, and good company. What a great time.
This week we head into Thanksgiving. We Thank God the river is within it's banks. The girls are eating and growing. We have three healthy boys and an intact home. We are fortunate. We are thankful for so many people who have come alongside us in the past two years. As the waters rose this week I was very nervous and not sleeping . It was cold and wet and rainy. I have had much time to think about how Thankful I am. Thankful with a capital T.
November 8 2009, We moved all the wet woolies home today. They have been mowing the neighbors last hay field that was too short to cut and too long to leave. They had some delicious meals but now that the rains are upon us we want them home where they have shelter as they like. Pastures get pretty wet here in Western Washington also so we will keep them in the barn yard to minimize damage to the fields.
We had a very enjoyable day yesterday our friends from the Issaquah Methodist Church came to help out once again. We have 13 lambing jugs in the old loafing shed and electrical outlets along the whole wall to hang the heat lamps from. We pulled the old feeders apart and Brad will cut new hog panels to fit back into the feeders. Nice small squares that the sheep cannot get their heads through and get stuck. The old panels had several missing slats where we had to cut one or several ewes out where they put their head through a hole to get the best of the hay or alfalfa. At times we found two ewes with their head through the same hole......sometimes I will agree, sheep are stupid.....no worse than some people though.
October 2009, This was the month to eat and get big and eat and be bred and wander and kick up the heels and graze and begin planning for the next year. October was a lovely busy month so much I did not get to the computer to chronicle the progress. We did the Wedge Festival in Portland, the Moscow Cheese Festival in Idaho, and Farm days in Sultan. It was a busy month. Brad moved the sheep across the neighbors hay field. Each day he would check to see which ewe was bred and we marked it all on our calendar. Lambing will begin February 11th to about March 18th. Time now to rest and be ready for the new year and cheesemaking 2010!
September 24, 2009 What a whirlwind of activity this week. We started out serving cheese at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville Sunday afternoon. We were invited along with Mt Townsend, and Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese to serve a variety of our best at a Fall Winery event. What a Splendid Day! It was sunny and breezy, just perfect for fall. The hosts went all out to see that the Cheesemakers were well stocked and happy. They even took samples to be paired. Our Sheep Cheeses went well with the Chardonnay and the Merlot. We wholeheartedly agreed. Not only were the Hosts most welcoming but the crowd of people was just plain fun. I met many folks that loved cheese and wine and were just out to enjoy it on about the most perfect fall day the Northwest has to offer.
We finished our tour at the Nike World Headquarters with a final Farmers Market at their facility in Beaverton Oregon. I must say I do not think I saw the same pair of shoes walk past me all day. We have one more week at our Chehalis and Moreland Farmers Markets. We are breaking hearts daily. We are done with the fresh cheeses since the sheep are now done milking and in with the rams. We have a lot of customers who really like those fresh cheeses and I keep trying to explain that our products are seasonal since the sheep only lactate for about 5-6 months. Sigh, it is the kids who break my heart.
Tonight we have been invited to the Heymann W(h)inery in Centralia to serve cheese to a crowd of “bikers”. Well this is a group of cyclists who are getting together to support Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA. What a worthy cause. We hope to donate some of the proceeds we raise as well. I have worked with many families over the years whose children have been served by this facility and their work is invaluable.
Tomorrow we will be preparing a cheese and fruit plate to serve at a wedding! What fun. At the same time we will be cutting up samples to serve at Metropolitan Market at tastings in Tacoma and Federal Way. We will be busy cutting and wrapping and making it all beautiful.
Our Tin Willow Tomme debuted this week at the Chateau event. It has been very well received. We will be sampling that tomorrow at Metropolitan Markets as well as serving it to the wedding crowd. What fun to have a new cheese to take along with us.
The fall does bring about a change in our lives, out with the fresh cheeses but in with some of those wonderful aged cheeses that we have to wait for all summer. We hope to bring out our last make of the Fresh Pecorino for the Cheese Wedge in Portland, OR on October 3rd as well as the above mentioned Tin Willow Tomme and the Black Sheep Tomme. Two Tommes? Absolutely. We make the Tin Willow from the milk we purchase from Terry and Doug in Eastern Oregon. It has wonderful grassy and sagey notes to it, representative of where the animals are grazed daily. Our Black Sheep Tomme has fruity nutty overtones somehow gained from our fields and hay fed here in Chehalis. It defines Terroir for me, “A taste of Place”. The flavors unique to a certain locale, a certain farm, a certain cave that ages cheese. That is the fun of several cheesemakers in the same locale. They will all differ in technique and produce varied tastes in their products.
Onward and upward, the Cheese Wedge is the next hurdle!
September 6, 2009 We have rain. It has been a long, dry summer and our fields are drinking this up. It was nice that the weather also decided it was ready to change when school starts, the sheep are drying up, and we dropped a couple markets. It is a nice change. We will still get a few days of warmth yet this month but it will cool at night now. “Fall” is in the air!
The Sheep are being milked every third milking, soon to go to every other day. We will sort out the groups for the rams to breed next weekend. We have yet to look at who is to breed who . I usually start picking and choosing those groups in August but this year has been too busy to look that far ahead. That is okay we will sit down and do it together. One of our milkers went through the line of girls and gave me a great rundown of traits they have that are impressive and worth breeding in and items not desired. Such as placement of teats, shape of udder, easiness to handmilk vs the machine. All of these will be balanced against the traits brought in by the ram’s genetics. That is still hard at this time as we are just now seeing the outcome of the rams offspring. It takes a couple of years to know what genes are going be dominant, and if we like them. We had a black ram named Hershey we used for several years, His mother, Holstein, had a beautiful udder and was a wonderful milker. Unfortunately his daughters did not all share that udder gene. We have some good rams now. Two were given back to us after the flood and one carries the genes of one of our best milkers that we lost in the flood. We will see……
They all have something to offer.
We are down to making the last five batches of cheese.
Seasons change for a reason. We may not be any less busy but it will be different and Change is Good.
August 30, 2009 It is time for a change of season. It is time to slow down and figure out what next. Today we finish two of our four Farmers Markets. The sheep have been milking once a day for two weeks now, still putting out enough for two markets but not four. Jess our very worthy intern is in Milwaukie today. Our last market of the year there. Not to fret though, our good friends at Steve’s Cheese, New Seasons, and Market of Choice in West Linn will be carrying our cheese as long as the supply holds out! Then there is the Cheese Wedge in Portland on October 3rd. I got ahead of myself, I want to take a moment to bask in the crispness of a cool morning, plan a month promising to be much less hectic than the past 6 months and to look ahead to prioritize what needs to happen before we start the crazies all over again.
Jess has been wonderful. We had an “intern” this summer who was able to jump right in, catch on to what needed to happen, read my mind even when it was tumbling around three jobs at once and I hope learned what she was intent on learning. She will be leaving us now since the sheep are slowing way down and we will drop the two markets. She has great plans to move onward and will no doubt be on a warm beach near the Equator by the time fall offically arrives.
The Sheep are what set our seasons here. Yes, markets could go on into October, and No it is not fall yet, but the sheep have slowed down and we have too. I am so in need of this change in our lives. This summer has been full and wonderful but school starts tomorrow, the markets have slowed, the sheep will dry up and we will begin breeding soon. It is all good. God created seasons for a reason. I for one am going to wave good bye to the busyness of summer and fall in love with the slower pace of Autumn.
The girls will be bred by three different rams. We have had some really good milkers and some not so. Some have already been culled and are mowing yards elsewhere. Some we will try for another year. A couple of the new Ewes we brought in after the flood had such nice wool they will go to a wool shepherdess not as a milker. Decision time. Who we breed to which ram for the best production and wool and size of lamb. What is most important what is acceptable as a milking ewe. We had one that would have given us 1000 pounds of milk if we had done the one day weaning…..we do not have the personell for that. She did give an actual 600 pounds which is a great amount for us in our operation. We like to feed grass mostly and grain in the parlour. We like hardy stock which is sometimes a bit of a mix. We do not have any papers on any of our animals and that is okay for now. When we reach the upper echelons of milkers and want to take on the challenge I guess we will…..don’t hold your breath. For now our milkers are just what we need, they are hardy have easy babies take the milking stand well, or they are goners, and most importantly we enjoy having them.
July 22, 2009 It has been a grand but busy summer. We have had many helpers this year and that should make all go smoother, no? Jess had been a great intern taking to marketing cheese like she grew up doing that! What a blessing and tireless in making the cheese in preparation for market. She has a keen sense for details that I overlook. Sherry Livigne has spent a week here. She is on her way to opening a cheese shop on Capitol Hill in Seattle and came to see how the process works. She got thrown in on a very busy week and then some. She helped at a couple of markets, made a Libyan cheese with Brad and followed with Ricotta. They made some Peppered Tommes for our Christmas deliveries, and got to tub up fresh cheeses for both markets and stores. Then on her last night here she made dinner for us as well! Wow, check out her accomplishments at her calfandkid blogspot. Charlie from MO came through on his amazing odyssey to discover how to best accomplish a dream he and his 7 kids are hatching. They have a vision of a farm, restaurant, cheese plant and butcher shop all complementing one another....they all have various skills and interests to bring to the venture and he is on a fact finding mission. What a huge and well thought out undertaking. I wish both of these guys the best and hope we were able to impart a bit of help along the way. My accomplishment for the week, I finally folded all the laundry that has been piled on the couch for a month....and then I took that last load out of the dryer and we start all over again. It has been a fast and furious summer. We are doing four markets and we ar blowing through a make of cheese in 6 days. They don’t even last a week. We will slow down soon as the sheep are drying up. They say they lambed 5 months ago and it is time to be done milking, get a break and then will be bred this fall to start on next years cheese. We have not even had a chance to plan the dating game or even decide who stays and who is culled. Sigh.....soon! Brad will harvest alfalfa next week and we go to a farm party at Tin Willows Farm, pick up milk and continue with our craziness. But our girls are slowing way down on Production. Terry’s girls are also. The season is changing. July 17, 2009 Wow, What an event. What a fun time we had last night at the Oxbow Farm in Carnation, WA. I had never really known what the “Outstanding in the Field” folks do. Wow, if you ever get an opportunity to attend one of these events it would be memorable. Google outstandinginthefield.com to see pictures of previous events. It is an organization that takes people to farms to enjoy the beauty and “simplicity” of a farm dinner prepared on site. The organizers have done dinners in 30 states plus a few provinces in Canada. They have also organized a dinner in an art museum in Italy. They choose a local farmer and a local chef who in turn chooses local products and then they have a beautifully prepared dinner in a field on the farm. It was so well run, relaxing, and fun. We were blessed when Dana Tough of Spur Gastropub in Seattle asked to use our cheese, which gave us an invitation to attend this amazing feast. The first thing we did was to find the Farm and tour around Snoqualimie and Carnation. We came from the south avoiding the interstate as much as possible so we had to read the directions backwards. We did great and had a nice drive in the foothills of the Cascades. Then we arrived and were served a very nice refreshing wine from the Novelty Hill Winery. Dana and Brian of Spur served our fresh Sheep milk cheese on crostinis with pickled grape and flowers. It was divine. The instant the grape touched my tongue my mouth was watering and the cheese and the bread melded the flavors together. We then got a tour of the farm. It is an Organic farm run by Luke Woodward and Adam McCurdy and their families. They have established a nonprofit organization that will veer off toward educating children and others about organic farming and sustainability. The energy in how they shared about all they do was infectious. I want to get out and revitalize my garden! The tour ended up at a long row of tables set up near the river. Chilled broccoli soup started us off with some of our Queso de Oveja melted on top, and yes it did melt nicely, with nasturtiums. The wine was a Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc. The next course was Oxbow’s baby beets, heirloom lettuce, with some of our Mopsy’s Best shaved over the top with a white vinaigrette dressing. Again Dana and Brian did wonderful things with our cheese. It was rather fun to see really good food that we had a part of. When we send the cheeses off to a restaurant we don’t always see what it does. Then there were two amazing meat courses using meat from the Stokesberry Farm in Olympia, WA. A chicken dish with new potatoes and sweet peas and mustard. Also a red wine braised beef dish with baby carrots, fennel and chard. Again Novelty Hill Wines complemented each course. Roussane with the Chicken dish and their Stillwater Creek Vineyard Sauvignon with the Beef. They finished off with Honey biscuits raspberries and Creme fraiche, and Januik Bacchus Vineyard Riesling. Mike Januik is the Winemaker at Novelty Hill and also has a few of his own wines to offer. It was a hot day, we seated for dinner at about 5 pm and the air cooled slowly till dusk and I almost wanted my sweater by the time we walked to the car. Sigh. We had a mini vacation in the midst of an absolutely crazy season.
June 27, 2009 What a month and it is almost over!!!! How? The farm lives it’s own life in the summer the hay grows and matures, the sheep eat, and eat, and then eat some more. They make good rich milk from the grass that they eat, and eat, and eat. The days are longer so there is more time to do all those things that need to happen, sigh.... if only. The first 1400 bales of hay have been harvested and are in the barn. Bill has laid irrigation pipe to the fields he is renting. He buried the lines this year, made a mess of the yard and road but grass grows and now we have pipe to the fields. We are selling the last of the lambs today they will go to Wolftown. They will browse the underbrush on Vashon Island and then will be butchered in the new USDA approved mobile slaughter unit and sold. What a releif. T Martino of Wolftown has energy I am envious of and she has taken on this program to provide clearing of the underbrush and a good outlet for our lambs and hers. She will sell lamb to several restaurants and also to a store or two. I will not be feeding my poor little babies on a mud plain and they will be very happy finding food. Sounds kinda romantic T will lead the flock on horseback and watch them in the unfenced area they are to browse. Conjures up all sorts of pictures to me. All serene, slow paced, with a watchful yet peaceful shepherd or shepherdess. Sigh. It all sounds good. I think T has some interns who get the benefit of the horseback ride as well as she. Today I should have gone to Puyallup to market. Jess went instead of me. I am sitting by the river watching three boys make mud buildings and chase bugs. It is very nice after all the month has had to offer us. Jess arrived June first as planned and jumped right in to making cheese and going to markets. She is a gem. She called up wanting to try an internship to learn to make cheese. She had a bit of experience and is one of those people who will take on a project and study its faults and successes until they are all successes. It has been very good for both Brad and I. We will expand our use of the milk and whey. She is making Ricotta Salata as well as the ricotta we have made in the past. She has solved our problem with yogurt.....it was always too runny. She will start taking that to market next weekend. We will benefit from this venture as I hope she has. We will give her the milk and equipment to try somethings she would not be able to in her own kitchen with grocery store milk. I think we have been blessed many times over. So today I have a day off in the middle of this crazy season. And I have enjoyed it. I still have a list of things to do as long as my two arms but I did some weeding and am enjoying the boys playing. Things there is just not extra time to do! May 31, 2009 The barn has new hay in it. First field’s first cutting done and stored, what a releif. It has been a very wet spring here in the Northwest, winter seemed to extend right into May and then sunshine and beautiful days, two weeks of them predicted. How did we rate that? So the crews all over the county have been haying like crazy. We got in our first 400 bales and will cut a new field today. Wonderful stuff, the smell of mown hay is like the smell of mown grass in the evening. The smell of hay is just a bit sweeter but it all indicates a new cycle is upon us. The grass/hay is growing and needs cutting. The warmth from the sun infuses the air with the sweet smell of the grasses. There is a cool brisk feel still in the evening that takes away the sweat of the day and helps us sleep. All this is a part of the new hay season. It is the change in the air as we enter into early summer and out of our late winter. What a blessing. As we said all day at Market yesterday “this is why we live in the Pacific Northwest”. It is a very beautiful time of year. School is almost out, the kids can play outside much later as the days get longer and longer. Our sun sets about 10 PM in June. It is fantastic, once school is out and bedtime can be fudged a bit. It is the new season, a new beginning and I am ready for the change. The sheep are happy on grass, they come in at night to sleep in the barns but soon we will fence them into the pasture day and night so they can eat grass all the time. The field Brad will be cutting today will be the pasture once the hay is off of it. i think the gaurd dogs are ready for some real work. They jumped their fence yesterday. They need more space and the are getting crabby with the rams. The rams are going to go to mow a friends place and my lambs are hopefully going soon. we can disc and seed pastures if the animals are gone and that will bless us next year when we have new lambs that need better feed than what they found this year! Markets continue to be fun, somedays it is hard to get there but once ther the energy level of the customers and market help me immensely.
May 25. 2009 What a whirlwind, Markets have begun! We have had great days in Puyallup on Saturdays and Portland at the Moreland Market on Wednesdays. It is fun to catch back up with old friends and meet new customers.
We have made four trips to Oregon to pick up milk from the Tin Willows Farm. Terry and Doug are getting loads of good milk from their flock and we are enjoying seeing the cave fill back up as it was filling in 2007. It is a beautiful sight to behold. The lambs are almost all gone! I have about 8 small ewe lambs left that would be good pets and two beautitul rams who come out of a wonderful milker. We will meter the milk again on the first of June and find out just how much she is producing. I have one additional ewe who is very cute. She looks like a Babydoll Southdown. She has short little legs but is so perky and sweet I would love to see her in a nice home. I would not reccommend her as a good milker though because the cups would not fit underneath. Sweet and small, the last one born this year Number 153.
There in only 9 more days of preschool left and 12 more days of school for the other two boys....but who is counting. School schedule and Market schedule overlap for a while in the spring and in the fall. It is hard to keep it all flowing and not leave someone in the wrong place or not remember a market or an order. I will feel much better once we have only one or three focuses rather than all school has to add to the pot.
We are very fortunate to have two milkers now. Deborah and Daniel both milk several times during the week, and thankfully Deborah was willing to be called in to milk last night as we got ready for our trip to Oregon. We took 35 lambs to Terry and Doug for next years milking crew. Catching and considering each one, as well as looking at the rams and leftover ewes we had quite a time. They all are looking quite good and it was fun but we finished at 9:30 and had to get up at 3:00 to leave this morning. Deborah was a lifesaver as Brad would have had tomilk between 9:30 at night and leaving in the morning. Whew. We made the trip just fine. I went along to give Brad a break, We had to be up at 4:30 Saturday am and had not gotten much sleep the night before. I asked my 16 year old if he would like to babysit his brothers, or go with his father to keep him awake. He chose the brothers so I went along to help Brad drive.....I think I drove about 45 minutes of the 10 hour trip. I was so sleepy, I do not know how Brad does it.
Tomorrow is Memorial day. Brad will make cheese, I will hopefull get the laundry done and enjoy the SUN! It has been a glorious weekend and I am looking forward to getting some much needed yardwork done and maybe even hang those sheets on the line! The lambs have been mowing the back yard but they are back in their own pen again so I will have some space to hang out clothes without them being eaten.
Life goes on and on and on, very busy, but tomorrow will be a fine day to stop for a moment and take the time to appreciate the opportunity to live in a free country. I will say a prayer for those who have made that possible and think of the families who have sacrificed so much so I can live as I do.
May 3, 2009 First market over. The first one is always a challenge. Change the car back into a market vehicle, get all those things back into the market box that were pilfered over the winter: tape, pens, sacks, trash bags, spoons, toothpicks...... We did it and only forgot three things but my neighbor was in the same boat so we shared, Market people are wonderful. Puyallup was drizzly outside but people still made it to market. It was a great start to a new year. Mentally it is good to get the first market over as well. I just have to make the jump to market mode, the energy level is different, the time away from home changes things, organizing meals and feeding of lambs in my absence needs to be remembered. Brad took cheese to both Redmond and Edmonds as I went to Puyallup so we had three to prepare for. I sold out right at 2:00, right at the end of market.....actually the last three tubs of cheese were bartered for Pasta and Salad greens. Market dinners are fun. So the season is off and running. We will continue to take our fresh cheese to Market of Choice and New Seasons Markets in Portland and on south into Oregon. We even got some of the fresh cheese to Ashland’s Market of Choice with this last order. Next week we will prepare for our event at the Hip Chicks Winery. Then to the Seattle Cheese Festival! April 19, 2009 How did the month get past me? We finished out the year with 153 lambs. The last being born on Palm Sunday. We had one in the morning before church and as I went out to see the crew after services I was thinking how nice it would be to have the last momma deliver today so we would be all done. There she was licking off the cutest little white lambs. They were white because we finally had one deliver in the fresh bedding Brad had put out for them....not in the dirt. We are milking 60 mommas now and have weaned some this week. It has been noisy but everyone is looking good. We had a long winter, wet and muddy. Tha lamb pen has no grass to speak of as it was silted over in the flood and needs to be planted. But by the grace of a Good God we will. Yesterday we had yet another work group here. The Methodist Church had over 100 people in the area to work on various sites. There was a man with a 4 wheel drive tractor with a bucket who scooped and moved the piles of mud. We will be able to plant this summer and with the irrigation pump we will be replacing we will be able to grow pasture for next years lamb crop. These poor little lambs have been muddy and look so sad I will be happy to have new grass next year. We have been making cheese and delivering it to both the New Seasons Market and Market of Choice, in Portland. We also have been getting some to De Laurenti in Seattle. We have been moving as fast as we can to finish lambing, start cheesemaking, work on Market applications and get keep the homefires going. Our friend Deborah has been a huge help in all this. She even milked twice a day while Brad and I sold cheese at the Spring Beer and Wine Festival in Portland. We had a good time and our friend Cory from the 7 Corner New Seasons Market was a huge help to us. I learned a lot about sampling cheese to people from him, his energy and engaging style was a huge hit. Our next “engagement” will be at Gretchens Wool Mill. She is having a fiber frolic next weekend in Monroe. We will go to sample and sell cheese and learn more about wool. Brad may not be able to get away so Deborah may get to go with me and then we can take our spinning wheel and hopefully learn the basics. After that no rest, markets will begin May 2 in Puyallup, Redmond, and Edmonds. We will then do an Event at the Hip Chicks Winery in Portland on May 9th and the Seattle Cheese Festival on May 16th and 17th. Correction, I will do the Hip Chicks event....it is for ladies only, so sorry dear. Today is a day you live in the Pacific Northwest for, Sunshine, 70 degrees, green grass, yellow dafodills, and a nice breeze. John wanted to go to the river so I am enjoying the day. We just took down about 10 butterfly bushes and built the burn pile up about 15 feet I am enjoying the moment.
March 29, 2009 Today we will see sunshine. Yesterday I saw sunshine but it was not coming from the sky. We had a work party come from Issaquah, they helped dig out our accumulated straw and manure in the barn. A smelly, messy, muscle aching, job. It was cold and wet and even snowed big wet flakes all morning. I had just finished feeding the lambs when the first car drove up. My favorite barn coat has now lost it’s water repellency and I was wet, my fingers were frozen, I was crabby and sick of cold weather. Dan was the first one out of the car with a huge, warm smile on his face and even though I groused about the temperature my heart was beginning to see some sun breaks and I know spring will come. How much this group has blessed us I will never be able to recount. Our barn is half cleaned and that alone would be three months work for me fitting it in when I could, getting interrupted by kids, life, work, cheese. It is beautiful already. They are beautiful and have been down several times always happy, hard working, and just fun. Thank you! The lambs keep coming. Our yearling mommas have done well. We have one little girl who had a beautiful 12 pound baby who is 21 pounds at one week of age. Wow. She has made it all look so easy! We have two little mommas who had twins but have refused the first one out. We were not in attendance at these births both came at night in between barn checks. One little momma must have had them about 4:30 in the morning. I went out at 5 am and I could hear a new baby before I got to the shed. I found him. Sitting under a heat lamp all dried off and yelling for food. No momma within sight. I had to rethink all the recent births to see if we had gotten all the new lambs tagged. Nope we were up to date on ear tags so It had to be a new one. No ewe in the immediate vicinity showed any signs of a recent delivery. I searched further and there behind a feeder about 30 feet away was the momma with another baby. I brought Junior over for her, she was not willing to recognize him as her own. So then I had to rethink, was this here lamb....did anyone else lamb in the middle of the night? I looked and looked while the momma butted him away from her so I scooped him up to protect him and kept looking for another momma. Nope it had to be hers so I called Brad out to help me get feisty momma in a pen and make sure the second baby was eating. We milked out colostrum and fed it to our new baby. I have two bottle babies now. Just when we had graduated all the others off the bucket. Thankfully Big Momma had given us two bags full of colostrum out of her excess, so the babies are getting a healthy start and will finish up on formula. Whew, never a dull moment, though sometimes that would be nice. I guess dull is a matter of opinion. Some people would consider shoveling poop for 6 hours dull, or monotonous checks to the barn in the middle of the night dull but I don’t. I get tired of it but it is only as dull as you make it. As with any job. Our new mommas are doing well. Gretchen has loaned us Mayday, one of her beautiful big ewes, she is quite large and had now dropped. We should see babies soon and then we are down to only 4 more to go. Three of them we have been watching for half a week or so and then one was marked late. She will be delivering in April for sure. Down to just a handful.
March 22, 2009 Spring is here, so my calendar says. Actually the sun did shine yesterday. We cleaned out the old junk pile under the barn eaves. The old cow dairy milking apparatus was stored in this unused alcove 13 years ago when Brad cut it out of the milk house. It was stored, just in case any of those metal pieces would be useful. It was flooded and full of, now dry, mud so we pulled it all out and will scrape out the dust. We will put the feeders outside the barn now, under this alcove. Since spring is here it will be warmer at night and the sheep will need cover but not necessarily to be totally enclosed. Right. Tell that to our little momma who gave us two black ewe lambs last night at 1:30. It was nice to have them in the shed with shelter all around and lots of soft bedding. They are cute, jet black. We needed to have some black ewe lambs or we might have to change the name of our creamery. The White Sheep Creamery, does not have the same ring to it. Why did we choose the name, Black Sheep Creamery. A lot of people ask me that. Being the Black Sheep has some very negative connotations. None of which we were emulating when we chose the name. We were the first all sheep dairy licensed in the State of Washington. We felt we had gone against the norm. I guess we like to look at things from another angle. It does not all have to be uniform and just what is expected. Throw them a curve every now and then. It is fun to go to market and sample sheep milk cheese to people who never knew you could milk sheep. It is good to look outside the box, you might find something you really like. But don’t bring it inside the box, close it up, and make it “normal” keep your mind open and try something different. We had a potential intern stop in for a visit the other day. She was looking outside the box, it is all about staying interested and keeping an open mind looking at how and why things work and not just using what is easily available. We all have areas in our lives that we need to follow the rules and toe the line. And then there are areas in our lives we can be creative and enjoy all the world has to offer us. Taxes, dairy regulations, insurance, school attendance (yes, I am one of those moms) all are things that need to be respected in my book. Trying something new like sheep cheese, milking sheep, living on a farm, eating brussel sprouts, are all areas I can look at outside of the box. There are more. We all have parts of our lives that belong inside the box and outside. I don’t think God belongs in the box. I am sitting in church typing away while the kids are in Sunday School. It is interesting to think of those who would put God in a box to be brought out on Sunday and all the proper actions accomplished and tucked away again till the next week. I am sometimes guilty of that too. But then I look at the new little lambs, or the green grass and daffodils struggling through the snow and I see the beauty God created outside these buildings we call Churches. I see people who are “God in Action” ministering to the poor and needy both here and abroad. I see young people with a passion to put their faith into action. They have a purpose, and will, a burning desire to see God’s word expressed in the world. It is good to think outside of the box. The caution I have to give myself is that we all have our own boxes. We put things in and take them out. Perhaps it is in closing the box up that we run into close-mindedness. If I felt I knew it all and put in the box those finite things that I could run my life on then God would not fit. I am thankful that God does not fit in my box because it is a much bigger and better world looking at all that He has created and made for us to learn from. Some lessons are funner than others. We are all, unfortuneatley, judged by people, and are judgemental ourselves, but it is that final judgment that makes us feel comfortable with being “Black Sheep”. If I am willing to look at the world in a different way it is okay, God will judge my actions and Brad and I will have fun choosing what is in our box and what we hope to look at and relish on the outside. Like Sheep and Cheese and being “Black Sheep”.
March 18. 2009 Big momma and babies are doing very well. Deborah and I did very well yesterday. We made fresh cheese. We used the new cheese packaging room. We are very thankful to all the volunteers that helped piece our buildings together and to all those who sent in a donation to make that possible. It was a true blessing. Poor Deborah heard me grousing all last year about space for this, where is that, how can we work around all this stuff. We did everything in the Cheese making room last year. We balanced tubs on top of ice chests, perched our round bottom bowl on a 36 inch high stool, crammed our weighing, mixing, and scooping skills onto a 4 foot table top. It was tight and hot and we made it with no loss of life limb or property, except a few tubs that toppled off the round edges of the vacuum sealer when I tried to use it as a table. Yesterday we used 12 feet of table top with room for the scale to weigh the batches of cheese, measure and mix in the herbs and then had a bowl ready for the scooping and weighing that could be done at the same time. Last year we had to finish up one part of the process and then clean up and get out the other smaller scale for weighing the tubs, or use the make table which is a low table that worked, at the expense of one’s back. Wow, we did 30 gallons of milk in 3.5 hours. Deborah commented on how much more efficient this was, that was an understatement. It was nice. I took some of our Ten Willow Tomme to Steve’s Cheese in NW Portland and also the fresh order to Market of Choice. It is wonderful to be back in the saddle again. Today we met Lisa Owen who owns and operates The Mark, a restaurant in Olympia. She focuses on Spanish and Italian Cuisine and is certified organic. Sounds like a wonderful place to go. I am currently taking a two month trip to Italy, all for only $8.00. I borrowed a Frances Mayes book from the library and found I got through a whopping 14 pages in ten days. I found her books used for $8.00. It will take me a good two months to get through them so I am going on a two month tour of Tuscany and will enjoy every morsel described, every view seen, every person discussed, every weed pulled, wall painted or scrubbed, and every glass of wine lifted to their lives in Adventure. Her writings are so clear and vivid I feel as if I am there, though I have never been to Europe. I will savor each word and enjoy, that is why I purchased them I can take my time along the way. (besides I fall asleep if I sit down to read for any length of time.) Baby patrol at 2 am netted a new ewe lamb. 8025 had a girl but was so intent on licking it off she did not want it to nurse. I had to call Brad out to help me hold her so we could get the baby on. She did fine once she realized what all this was about...That is why we like to be out checking at all hours, it would not have made it till morning without getting fed. Today the sun is shining, it is good, I am ready for spring, dry ground and green gowing things. March 17 post had been erased for some unknown reason so we will report that Big Momma has three ram lambs weighing in a total of 33 pounds at birtth. She is now doing well and babies are gaining about 6 pounds a week on all that wonderful milk she has. Brad got 10 pounds of colostrum milked out of her that first day and we have two bottle babies who have benefited well from her overachievement. Will try to repost that wonderful picture of momma and Patrick.
March 15, 2009, Big Momma is still big and happy to be eating and getting bigger. Our friend Gretchen says her momma that had quints had a bag that was as deep as this one but hit the ground.....oh my!
As noted on the home page Brad is starting a batch of fresh cheese today. It will take about three days and we will be delivering this to Boistfort Valley Farms to put into their Winter CSA boxes, and to Market of Choice. What a good feeling, breeding, watching, feeding, lambing, feeding more, graining, milking and now to cheese.
March 14, 2009 as of 5:30 am, Big momma is still big. I will call the vet today to make sure we are on the right track. She actually physically looks much better in the small pen but she does not like being separated. So....hoping to move things along last night we put the newest momma in the lambing jug next to her. So far it has not worked. Candy had a white ewe and a jet black ram lamb last evening just as Brad finished up milking. He had just been out to check on progress and was cleaning up when I came out to check one more time before getting kids in bed. "Oh, it will be a while" he says, not much pushing going on. We just to prove him wrong I walk in and she is pushing for all she has, I tell him she will let us get to bed a a decent time and by the time I walk 25 yards back the first one was out, and the second not 5 minutes later. She is a first time mom and was more interested in licking than feeding. We held her head and got the babies on the teat and she gave us this look like, so that is what that bag is for. I guess we had better be more careful when we name them. Perhaps Candy is just full of empty calories. The babies looked very good this morning the ewe lamb was taking a nice long drink when I walked into the barn and momma was standing for it like a pro.
Big Momma enjoys a chew as she stands around growing.
March 12, 2009, Well, Big Momma is still Big. It was later on Tuseday we noticed Big Momma could hardly walk. Brad said he had brought water into the barn a couple of times for her since she was not ambulating over to the water tank. We called the vet and he said if she cannot walk it is time to induce. She can get around but I would not call it walking, more like shuffling. The vet said to come in in the morning and he would have an injection ready for us.....We have never had to do this before but she is up and eating and looks good. I do not want to wait till she is flat out down, ketotic and dehydrated because she could not eat or drink. Tuesday night it goes without saying we were up every 3 hours to check on her, and the yearlings, who are now ready to pop. Where was my two weeks off in between lambings? I went out at I:00 am and looked across to the lambing jug we had made for her. We put two jugs up together so she would have "plenty of space". I looked over to the pen as I entered the barn and did not see her. Oh my, I went around the feeder and saw her laid out in a corner with her legs stretched behind her high centered on her udder. Oh my, what a nurse, first assessment, she was breathing. Second assessment, she was stuck. I opened up the pen a bit wider and put my foot down for her to get some traction on the wood floor and she was able to muscles herself up. Oh my, had she been unable to help herself we would have needed a tow truck to get her back on her feet. I decided then and there that we would get that induction going first thing in the morning. So, at 8:30 I went to the vet to get the med and realized...this is Wednesday, the preschoolers are coming for a field trip today. How long before this stuff will go into effect? "oh, 2-3 days" Oh, part of me wanted it to be over and done with but part of me knows if it takes a while the whole event should be more tolerable....we will see. We gave her the injection hoping it would not send her into orbit and bring babies out during the field trip. That would be a memory for some of those kids. She is happy to eat and get special attention in her stall and she impressed all the mothers on the field trip bringing back fond memories of being engorged after our own babies. Sigh, so as of this morning Big Momma is still big. She looked like she was uncomfortable a couple of times yesterday so we had hopes it was all starting. The up comes the cud and she was ruminating again and looking at us like "what am I the Circus clown?".
We weaned the first set of babies last night. It was a circus around here all night long babies were crying out side our bedroom window and then in the barn it was very noisy every time I went out. It is sad but it was time. We had noticed the first momma to deliver was being much less patient with her lambs. She would walk away and not let them nurse long at all. I don't blame her they come running up to their mom's, full speed, butt the udder to stimulate milk flow and then latch on and hold on for all their worth. Mom's tend to walk away and the babies are hanging on. It was time. We have noticed the longer they stay on mom the slower they grow. I like to see a 4-5 pound a week gain in the first four weeks but have noted the longer I leave them with mom the less they gain. If I wean them and get them on more creep feed, grain, they will continue to gain 4-5 pounds a week for a while longer. By 5:00 am they were quiet in the orchard, It will still be noisy but at least they all got some rest too.
We will let you know how Big Momma does.
March 9 2009, My sister told me I was too much of a nurse with that last post.....Think of it as a dream, with dream qualities. And momma still has not lambed. Our friend Gretchen has had ewes that have gotten huge like this and as long as they are up and eating I guess it is okay. I hurt for her every time I go into the barn but she seems happy to be eating. She was "nesting" the other evening so we got up twice to check but she still just stood chewing her cud. Sigh.
We will wean the first babies on Wednesday. We had hoped to do that this weekend but it snowed....What a bunch of weanies they are probably saying in Wisconsin. It seemed too cold to wean especially since we are moving them to a pasture with a shelter that is not fully enclosed. They probably would have been fine but we are to warm up by Wednesday and will pull babies then. It will be loud for a couple days but then all settles down again as grain is given and the mounds of mud are found to run and jump on.
March 1, 2009 Still one more momma to lamb. Our “Mountain Momma” as Brad had named her is still huge, still has her face in the feeder every time we feed, and calmly sits chewing cud each time we go to check on her. She was marked twice, the first time for a February 17th due date and the second for March 19th. I hope we don’t have to wait that long for her to deliver. I had a dream about her last night that she went into labor and had troubles. I could not get in there to figure out what was happening so we called the vet. He stood looking her over and said it would be some huge amount of money to do a c-section so we had to make a decision. We somehow got to the point where she died and we had to cut her open to see what she had inside. I woke up after we pulled the 5th 10 pound baby out of her. I am glad it was a dream. This morning she was in the barn looking just fine. Dreams are interesting.
The babies are fun to watch. This week in the sunshine we had a band of about 25 to 30 lambs running up and over and around a large dirt pile in the barn yard. The funniest thing is the half grown lambs that join in. The little ones run all out and the larger lambs run with them with some extra high kicks inbetween laps. It is just plain fun to watch. The lambs are separating from their mommas just a bit. At first they are always at her side and they call back and forth to each other. Then they begin to stray a bit farther, then they are in this running pack of energy that when the “batteries” need recharging they lie in a puddle all together in the barn. This is amazing as well we will get a large pile of lambs all huddled and cuddled together. One of them will get a wild hair and jump up and the whole pack will follow on another wild chase around the yard and then they all collapse again, or find momma for a drink.
February 25, 2009 We could call if sleep deprivation, or laziness, or too much to do or? I just updated the Lambs for Sale page but be warned those I marked as a Wether, or a castrated ram, may become rams once again.....I did not write clearly on my barn cards which ones looked good enough to use as breeding stock and which did not. Therefore that little item may be changing on future renditions.
February 23, 2009 It is such a wonder that we live and work in such a small part of a big puzzle. Yet the concept of being only 6 relationships away from everyone else boggles my mind. We had a visitor over the weekend who is interested in the cheese field but not sure just where to fit in.....It amazed me the number of options she could see to use as entries into working with cheeses. Easy enough is to make the cheese, but do you raise your own animals and milk them or buy in the milk. If you are one who does not like to be tied down, buy in milk.....could that be done in a shop setting, such as Beechers where they have cheesemakers in the cheese sales building. She could open a shop and just sell cheese, or have education classes where she would teach about cheese and possibly work with wine pairings or just explore the vast numbers and varieties of cheeses worldwide. She could give insight on the history and uses of the cheeses they explore. The idea of running cheese tours came up. Rikki Carroll took a cheese tour through Europe a few years back, maybe she has since. What about tours of US cheesemakers. What about touring local wineries as well. Cheese distributors call us to offer their help, Cheese Judges, Cheese Writers like Tami Parr who has a book coming out and is already planning her book signings!!! (See the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project website, good Job Tami!) What a lot of ways to work with this one part of our diet. The idea of being such a small creamery in this big world of cheese is humbling. Reading about the farmers in Europe who make 8 wheels of a certain cheese and sell them is even more humbling. Then to look at the really big guys who need trucks and containers to ship. We laugh because a man called us from Cincinnatti to offer his help in distributing the cheese. Brad told him to bring his car and we could set an ice chest on the front seat...no truck, but thank you for thinking of us. It is so fun to go to a cheese store and find some new cheese to try. We are in desperate need of a Research and Development night. We like to find about 4-6 new cheese we have read about or want to try. We will buy them, get some bread, a complimentary wine, a salad or fruit and try them all out. It is nice to take the time to sit and taste the fruit of someone else's labor and learn about their product. It has been too long since we have done this life has been wild for the past year so I guess you just carve out a niche and do it. I still have a bottle of the Hip Chicks do Wine’s Syrah....maybe that will happen soon. On the home front, we still have two more mommas to deliver. Our one BIG girl, Michelle, has looked ready for about 8 days now. I remember getting up last weekend to check on here and she is now even bigger. I am afraid she may pop if she rubs the barn and encounters a splinter. Wow, her udder is like a basketball, reminds me of how our Mopsy used to get before delivering triplets. She was such a great milker, perhaps Michelle will be as good. We had the cutest little girl born yesterday out of one of Deb Benders ewes. All dotted with black specks having both eyes surrounded by black circles. Deb’s girls have been such a blessing to us. Not only are they good mothers but their fleeces seem to go for a premium. Last year we sent several to the Shepherds Extravaganza at the Little Puyallup Fair and they all sold quite well. In fact at the Farmers Market in Puyallup I had several customers come up and expound on the joy they had over spinning those fleeces. I am sure Deb is in the middle of lambing but keep your eye out for her ewes, they are great mom’s, deliver well, and have good fleeces. Oh and by the way they were some of our best milkers as yearlings. We are anxious to see how they do this year. Only 6 relationships away from everyone else, or however that concept goes. I guess even in the very small world of cheese and sheep we have made wonderful friends in many areas of the United States, and now have contacts in England and Germany. It could be true, we are all a part of the big picture, no matter how small or insignificant we think we are.....we aren’t. We all fit together. February 15, 2009 Our big weekend was quiet. We had 21 mommas due between the 13th of February and the 16th. We had no deliveries yesterday and it was quiet by the time I left for church this morning. Brad is graining the girls so he will have a report on who is showing signs of delivering next. They gave us another night off. I could almost feel human with two more of those. We have about 12 more mothers to deliver this month. We have had 45 mommas deliver with an average of 2.3 babies per mother. We have had 55% girls and 45% boys. We had 2 small ones delivered dead. That was something that must have happened in Utero. We have also had 2 stillborn full term babies. Each one part of a set of triplets so I figure something got mixed up inside trying to sort out one to deliver at a time. It happens. Those losses are expected each year. The loss of the two girls whose mother was too big to feed them is not as easily accepted by me. It is a case of the mother not trusting us. She was still new to us and was not willing to let us in to assist her babies. Rather than alienate her further we allowed her to do her thing. It was a choice. In hindsight I may have proceeded differently but we did not and a choice was made. We had another one go down yesterday. He was a 5 pound baby with two siblings who were 7 pounds or better. He was always pushed off the teat. I could tell he was waning and had tried to bottle him but he refused and would run back to his mother so I let him. I felt I tried with him but he did not want that bottle. He just got weaker and weaker and more stubborn so I had to accept he would not make it. It was sad but there may have been something else going on that I was unaware of. Sarah’s quads took the bottle I offered them yesterday. At least 2 of them did so I will keep supplementing them and let mother do the rest. If I get the smallest onto some additional nutrition they will have a better chance than my little guy who refused the extra help. Snowflake lost one of her babies. The last I had looked they were all up and I thought feeding but this one was the smallest and she may have not gotten onto the teat as often as needed. I tried to bottle her three that are left but they did not take it. We will see how they progress and I will try again as often as I can. Now our time will be spent watching, weighing babies, supplementing as needed, and getting the babies into the “creep feeder”. We have an area only accessible by lambs where we should have free choice grain for them to eat as they need. So far a few have found their way in and when I put the others in they are uncomfortable with the separation from their mommas and run back. It will get better, the lambs are starting to play and run and bounce so being away from mom is not such a scary thing. I will work on that after church now that the onslaught of babies is over for the time being. Whew, now we can get down to some real planning and caring for this multitude.
February 14, 2009 Happy Valentines Day. We are happy today. We slept all night. We did not set the alarm for a midnight and 3 am check in the barn. We did not go out to the barn and find a momma in a troubled labor, we did not have to locate and dry off babies and make sure they suckled. Why? Because we have had 59 lambs delivered over the last three days. Whew. We ran out of mommas due to deliver. No one was showing signs of an imminent delivery so we decided we needed to sleep and replenish and wake up when we needed to on a Saturday morning. What a whirlwind of deliveries. We had two sets of Quadruplets. We had another frank breech birth. We had one baby stuck with one leg out and one in. A big baby so I really had to help momma by pulling to get him out while she pushed. I thought he was dead. He just lay there but oh,no, he was resting and was right as rain before too long as momma pushed out another big sister for him. This morning that same lamb had escaped from the jug with his mother and was out exploring. Wow, it is a beautiful sight to see. Sarah had quadruplets on Wednesday. She started labor and just kept pushing. Deborah, our new employee and old friend, was watching her for us and she thought she had seen feet and now a nose. I put my hand under there and found three feet. Oops. On went the glove and noticing that one foot was black I figured it may be the one that did not match the white nose (though I realize it easily could). I pushed the foot back inside the momma and tried to follow the other legs from the shoulder to the exposed parts then when confirmed we had the right legs mom pushed and we gave a gentle tug and there she was. The second one, was black and came right on its heels. The third one seemed to be presenting wrong so again I checked momma and got legs and nose straightened out. I told Deborah and Brad that I sure felt a lot of leg left in there but these lambs are so gangly perhaps I just felt a lot of leg. Oh no, there was the fourth on the heels of the third. Sarah had out done herself Snowflake also produced quadruplets, unassisted. This was her second time. We had plans to retire Snowflake and Georgie they are out oldest ewes and just seemed tired last year, each had triplets. I guess I would tire easily also. But there they were side by side the day the ram jumped the fence and again side by side in lambing jugs. Georgie had triplets though the first one was wrapped up in it’s cord and was born dead, the other two were bruisers though. She has only one side of her udder. Georgie, I have shared before, had gangrenous Mastitis. This is an awful looking disease that infects the udder and makes that ewe so sick they usually die. Georgie had all the signs except being sick. She just kept on eating and acting normal as half her udder turned purple and sloughed off. We gave her a year off and then bred her in 2007, she had the triplets and did okay but we felt it was time to retire....I guess she thought differently. They both look good with their babies. That was Friday morning, by time to get kids to school we had 10 babies. Then we had the breech birth and then the hard shoulder stuck back delivery. Lambs do best when they come front feet first, then you see a nose and figure mother can push her baby out “easily” enough after that. Well one of the big mommas who was having big babies had presented with one foot out and a nose. I tried to push the nose and foot back in but she being stronger and more determined than me pushed out the head. At that point I really did not want to push this dirty head back inside to find a leg, and I really don’t think she would have let me, even if I had muscles the size of a hormone using athlete. So I watched and looked at what was coming out. The lamb had begun to turn sideways so I looked at the closest lamb I could find trying to figure out the narrowest way to get shoulders and torso through her pelvic bones in the easiest manner. We just had to pull with all our might as momma was pushing. It came slow but sure. It lay there limp for a minute or so. I cleared the bag off it’s nose and got out of the stall so momma could do what she could. She got up slowly and nosed around, she began to lick and we saw a little shiver, she licked more and the head moved. Soon enough the head was up and before momma pushed out number two it was moving on it’s own. As I said before, they are amazing. As we were cleaning up and thinking about dinner....Tomi went into labor, followed by Sadie, followed by, 7067. There we went again, Tomi had one in the barn while Sadie was really beginning to push, 7067 left the building so after feet were coming out of Tomi and Sadie had a bag out I found 7067 out in the loafing shed with one baby out and feet and nose showing for number two, back to the barn Tomi had number two and more feet showing, Sadie had feet and by the time I got back to 7067 she had two out. Sadie finished with two and Tome stopped at three, thank goodness. By 8:30 pm we got them all into pens, gave them their molasses water, looked for any other signs of mom’s in labor and went to the house to eat the dinner Peter had cooked for us. What a guy. We looked at the list of who had delivered and who was yet to come and realized everyone who was to deliver by Valentines Day had. There was no one looking imminent so we rejoiced in the idea we could sleep. It was good to sleep. It is good to have Ibuprofen on hand as pulling uses a whole new set of muscles that I forgot I had, It is good to have good babies. We have had our share of losses this year but the bouncing springing lambs running through the barn make all that worth it. Today is a new day, the first check of the day is over and all is peaceful in the barn, save for the lost little lamb calling for its momma and the low gentle response back, Here I am little one, follow my voice.
February 7, 2009. Those babies keep coming...on their own schedule not ours. We had a wonderful church in Issaquah send an energetic team of volunteers to continue with flood clean up and watch for babies. They helped cut up the trees we had felled over a fence line that needs to get back up so our babies have more space to leap and frolic and play. Plus we have a bit more trim up in the house, though had I been on the ball it could have been more. And we had barn helpers. Two girls helped to get my bottle babies onto the bucket so I can feed them all at once and not have to sit with bent back. They took all of 5 minutes to get these greedy little bottle babies onto the bucket. The feeding instructions for bottle babies always say to give them so much less that I would think they need to grow on. I will try to be frugal in my offerings but they are always yelling at me to give them more. Since I am their momma they dog my feet and follow me around yelling, worse than my own kids!
Well our group came and worked and watched a left, about 4:oo pm and our first momma was definitely in labor at 4:30, then another momma went into labor at 4:45. The babies came at 5:07, 5:19, then 5:30, 6:00 and the last at 7:30. What a crew, they needed to deliver in private and did not want gawkers. They must realize we have interested friends who like to "gawk" and see the magic they bring forth. I will have to have a talk with them.
February 6, 2009 Whew, It has been so busy I was looking for the March page to edit....but it is only the 6th of February. Wow. It is nice to see the barn filling up with bouncy babies. It has not been uneventful this season. We have a set of bottle babies, a loss of a ewe lamb, and now delivered a set of triplets the first one breech at 10:30 last night. And we are only on Number 8 ewe with 22 babies so far. Whew. Sunday we had a friend come to stay with us. Anna is 11 years old and loves the sheep. She and Andrew have both learned to milk and when she stays with us they go out during milking season and "help". She had come on Friday as the kids were out of school and begged her mother to stay an additional night. Since she has no fun here and hates all the work so her mother was fine with the offer. But Anna had come to help out in the barn and only brought barn clothes so she and I stayed home from church and watched for babies. I went out at about 11:00 to swing through the barn and check. I went out to the loafing shed and as I came back through, seeing nothing either place, I found a brand new baby delivered between looks. Mom was not showing me any signs of imminent delivery. I called Anna and we watched the twin brother be born. Momma was a good momma licking and licking but not so good at allowing the babies to nurse so we got them in a small pen together and tried to set our second baby up on his feet to eat but he was too weak and cold. I was trying to figure out the best way to get some nutrition into the little guy and then I remembered Anna could milk.....I of course am realizing how easy it was not to learn but maybe not so helpful. I held momma and she let Anna milk 2 ounces of colostrum into a baby bottle and our little friend was warmed up by a heat lamp and had his first nourishment and now is fine.....Our mother did continue to like to lick and look at her babies more than feed them so they are my two bottle babies. Oh well momma gives us milk twice a day and we feed it to here babies and any others who have needed to be bottled to get them going. This has happened far more than I like. We have so many animals who are new to us. Our ewes we have raised here are used to us so hanging around during lambing is just fine with them. With a barn full of new sheep we are fast learning about their personalities and quirks.
Our lost ewe lamb was a sad story. One of our new hefty ewes delivered twin girls. Beautiful babies and such a caring momma. At least until we got close to her. She still does not trust us. She came from a very large flock and had not been milked therefore we are just strange to her. She has a very large udder and large teats. We watched her try to nurse her babies but she would run and fight if we got too close. Since the babies were trying to find the milk, heads bobbing along the underbelly and then sailing right on through the back legs we left mom alone with them to give her space and them time to find food. Mom arched her back lifted her leg did all she could to help them make contact. Every time I checked on them the babies were alert or sleeping. Then in the morning we found one so weak and very cold. We realized she never did nurse. That is one of the basic reasons we like to attend all deliveries and I felt so bad that I had not forced the momma to let us see her baby latch on. But raging running crazy momma was going to trample the babies if we did too much to her. So we tried to tube feed our girl and immersed her in warm water and brought her into the house by the heater but she did not make it. We then milked colostrum from our other mom with bottle babies, fed it to our other ewe lamb and made sure she was warm and fed. She is still with her crazy momma. We have them in a small pen and can tie mom up and milk her out. She is getting used to our interference now and accepts it. We still have to see if she will allow this to happen when out in the bigger barnyard. They often tolerate things in a small space they will not tolerate in the large pen. But the trump card is that momma likes to come into the milking parlour for her grain and Brad can milk her in there. Our ewe lamb is looking quite good.
Our last event started at 7:30 last evening. We had been watching 320 all day and there she was going into labor. Since Brad had told John he would play a game with him I said I would stay and watch to make sure all was fine. She dilly dallied and pushed then waited and pushed and waited and got serious and got tired and did not seem to be making any progress. After Brad got the boys in bed he came out to hold momma so I could check her. Sure enough I had a hip and a tail in the birth canal. Meaning the legs were forward and this baby needed some help to get out. I tried to push him back in but with triplets in there I had no where to go with him. I located as much leg and hip as I could and helped pull him out while momma was pushing. She did a beautiful job and delivered all three lambs in five minutes. She got up slowly to lick them off and was so forgiving of my interferance she even licked me if I got in the way. We noted our breech baby was not walking well at all on his hind legs and one of his feet turned under. We tried to get him up to nurse but he could not stand. It is hard to see the little ones hurt and with two strong siblings we were not sure what his chances were. Mom was very attentive so we let him suckle a bit holding him up and he could straighten his legs with concentration so we left them in a jug all together and hoped for the best. We hallelujah this morning he was up and has been nursing. We splinted his bent foot to see if it will mend and he will be joining the pack, playing in the barn before we know it. God is Good and lambing will never get dull!
February 1, 2009 Another set of twins to greet me in the barn this morning. These two were a surprise as the paper said their mother was not due till the 16th but alas nature has its own plan that does not follow paperwork! Isn't that a sweet blessing to find some of our work from the 16th over and done with? and so beautiful too. Two little ram lambs who are lusty and white and eager to eat. The two born yesterday are aching to get out of their lamb jug with their momma. They are already bouncing and prancing and ready to rock and roll with the two lambs born 1/29. What a blessing to watch. Brad reports that yesterday when the two older ones came out of the barn with their mother one of them stood and looked as if he was awestruck by the whole big world beyond his barn. Just stood there with his"jaw dropped". What comical babies we get and each one I hope to continue to see with new eyes as each one is a wonder of it's own.
January 31, 2009 They are here! The first lambs of the season came on the 29th a boy and a girl. Andrew named the girl Dawn, as in Dawn of a new Era, let's hope it is a dry one! This morning one of the St Croix sheep blessed us with two girls. We are running our experiment with these ones so girls were perfect. To have a "hairy dairy" you cross a hair sheep with a wool milking breed. Those babies will be wool animals but if crossed with a hair sheep again the offspring should be hair sheep with milking traits......we will see. Larry Meisegier has done studies on this and was not impressed with the final output in the milkers...if I remember right, but we will see. Our Friends at Dancing Nanny Farm in Puyallup gave us these St. Croix so we will produce the numbers for them. So, off to a good start, two sets of twins. The only problem is we had 11 that were supposed to be due today and I have two young ladies who are here to see deliveries and we missed the one this morning by about an hour. The day is young yet, surely we will see some action before it is over! Within the next couple days I hope to begin a page regarding lambs for sale. We need to sell the bulk of the lambs this year as our pasture is still recovering from the flood and we will be short on pasture. We would love to see them all go to good homes so if anyone is interested contact us or watch as the lamb 4 sale page opens and see what you would like.
January 19, 2009 Gloves, check. Lubricant, check. Tetanus, given. Ear tags, check. Lambing jugs, ready. Feeding tubes, check (just in case). Molasses, check. Alarm Clock, loud. Okay, the girls are sheared, they got their tetanus vaccine, they are getting grain in the milking parlour, the barn has been cleaned post shearing and we have four lambing jugs at the ready for our first babies. It has been a while since we have had our winter lambing season. Last year Kim and Doug handled the births and we lambed by e-mail. This year we are actually going to have to go out there in the middle of the night and check on our girls. I have always enjoyed the trip to the barn at night. As cold as it gets it is always so rewarding to see the ewes’ contentment and feel the warmth they provide in the barn at night. I love that “golden glow” I always talk about as lambing season progresses. The barn really seems to be golden at night with the yellow hay and straw lit up. Half the barn was whitewashed as it used to be the milking area for the old cow dairy that was here. Now dulled over the years by time and cobwebs it makes a fuzzy background for the straw, and the wool, and the low lights at 2 am. It is really peaceful and if nothing is happening getting back into bed and putting cold feet on someone else to warm them up makes it worth the trip. We are chugging right up to the due date for our first lambs of the year. Whew, it is hard to wait, almost harder than having my own. It is like watching and waiting for a friend or family member to go into labor especially if you are the labor coach. Brad is guessing about a week from today. The gestation calendar actually places our first one on the 31st, plus or minus 5 days so next monday would be the first plausible date. Especially if we are expecting multiples we would plan on them coming earlier than the calendar would predict. We have some big girls out there. After shearing some of the wider ones still have trouble getting through the chutes of the milking parlour to get their grain. oh my. January 11, 2009 Whew, we were not flooded as the possibility was predicted on Tuesday January 6th. Warnings were put out regarding a huge storm that was headed towards the northwest. A big warm storm following several feet of snow in some places. Roofs were already collapsing schools closed road crews taxed as we had snow on the ground for the entire Christmas Break and then more snow the day the kids went back to school. It has been a wild ride. The call came from our Adna Flood Releif person, “Meg, they just upgraded this flood to a possible major flood event do what you can to prepare.” So into action we flew. The furniture all started to go upstairs, the cupboards were looked at this time We made plans to move the sheep. In the midst of all that I took John to the Doctor as he was diagnosed with a double ear infection....just to add to the fun. People began calling what can we do to help. E-mails came full of prayers and encouragements. It would have been easy to panic...infact in my sleep deprived state I almost did, but we got it all done with help of friends. Wednesday morning we got the sheep moved, they were very willing to go, it was the smoothest move we have had with these girls. The rams were put up in the back of the dairy parlour. The gaurd dogs went with the sheep. Kim and Doug of Mountain Niche Farm did not even think twice about taking them. The furniture we have went upstairs....infact I am deciding I like having just enough chairs for company and do not need too much more as it would not fit upstairs. It was a good lesson in enjoying our simplicity. The office was emptied, I am using plastic file boxes now and have not purchased a new file cabinet. It was so easy to move these upstairs and back down.....they may even float if they got left behind. The Bowes kids emptied all the lower kitchen cupboards out and put up the food and dishes. Friends lifted the stove up onto a table. It was still new only put in in August and a very nice one at that.....it was safe. Then the wait. We let the two younger kids stay with a neighbor who did not flood in 2007. In fact as schools were announcing closures on Wednesday she drove around and picked up the two that had gone to school that morning. What a blessing. I went to bed early Wednesday knowing we had done all we could do, besides, I was exhausted. Brad got up two or three times to check the online river readings and he drove to the corner to check the water level. At 3 am it was up onto the road by 6 am when I got up the road was closed and it did not reopen until about 2 or 3 pm. I was able to drive through in the truck to get the kids from our friends. All in Adna looked fine. We were spared. Centralia and Chehalis were not. And many parts north were not. Linda Nuenzig of 90 acres farms was not. There is a big work party there this weekend. We would love to be there but our shearing date was yesterday and finish up today. We begin to lamb in 3 weeks we will follow up with the ongoing effort as we know that will be happening. Linda our hearts go out to you and our friends the Mollerstuens. It is just unreal how powerful and unpredictable water can be. It is Powerful. We feel protected and thankful in this event. We now have the knowledge and wherewithall to be proactive in the event of a major flood warning. We had a dry run. The cows from the neighbors were evacuated also. We have all learned a lesson, had a plan in place, and now have had a practice. God keep us from becoming complacent and keep our ears to the news and our eyes open. January 7, 2009 one last note before I go get some much needed sleep. We appear to have dodged this flood that is threatening so many in Western Washington. 16 rivers in 9 counties are expected to flood and some will be of record setting proportions. We will keep so many of our volunteers in our prayers, Susan in North Bend, Mary and Whitney and their families in Silvana, Gretchen in Monroe and her parents, The Klesicks near Stanwood. So many of you have come to our aid and now are facing rising waters yourselves. We will anxiously watch and wait with you and look at what has come of this in a day or two.
January 7, 2009 As of now, 2 pm, 12 hours past last post we are ready to take what comes our way. The sheep have been moved to Kim and Doug's Mountain Niche Farm. The whole process went very well. We loaded up the stock trailer 4 times and they all went very willingly. They know when something is going on and were champions to load up so well. We had many hands helping both outside and inside and everything we could think of is up and out of what we imagine harm's way to be. The rain has not been consistent. It pounded down most the night but this morning as we worked it has even stopped for a couple of hours. The pause will give the rivers time to flow on out of here and hopefully take some of the bulge with it. We have been blessed with friends and many helpful hands.
Now we wait. The river is expected to crest in about 12 hours from now. Brad is going into town to see if he can help some of our friends who live in town. Chehalis and Centralia will be seeing possible record-breaking flooding. Our thoughts and prayers are lifted to them as they prepare for the unknown. We will keep you all posted as this flood progresses and will pray for protection for our sheep as they should really not be moved this close to lambing but......you gotta do what is best.
January 7, 2009 It is 2 am and it it pouring rain outside, the River is on a Flood Watch with Major Flood Warning for the Centralia area as of Thursday. It is a warm weather system following snow. Western Washington is wet. My heart goes out to those closer to the mountains they have had roofs collapse with the weight of the snow and now warm weather and rain. The Cowlitz River is predicted to crest three feet above their highest flood stage in Packwood, and that was a devastateing flood, 2 years ago. Maybe moving to the mountains is not such a wonderful idea.
The sheep have a date with a truck in the morning. We have borrowed a stock trailer from Kim Kerly and will be moving the animals to their farm in the morning. Thank you so much Mountain Niche Farms. We have several people who have offered to help and even though the animals should start to deliver soon we hope to move them out and hopefully home by the weekend. Unfortunetaly we are scheduled to shear on Saturday......If that is not possible it may be several months before the shearer has an open date again.
My new couches are upstairs and I know this time to open cupboards and put things up on counters. The Chehalis river is expected to crest three feet below the highest flood in Doty (the closest river reading station to the farm) that puts our water over 30 inches below December of 2007 but I am not taking chances and most things are upstairs already. You don't forget what 30 inches of water feel like, as much as you might want to. It has been in hindsight that I realized our last flood rose 4 feet in 1.5 hours. The log jam that let loose was not predicted and sent a huge bulge of water our way. Without the log jam we should have been better off but the sheep are moving to the hill country anyway, there are more logs up there and other problems could complicate things, like mudslides or other things I don't want to worry about now. I will try to sleep so I can help move the girls along. I keep praying this wild winter will settle down but there is weird weather coast to coast.