The two new men in my life.

 

Meet the newest men here on the farm, Fergus (on the left) and Zeke.

 

In late October we took a road trip to New England to pick these two handsome guys up. Kevin, the two kids and I piled into the pickup truck and hit the road. Kevin and I fueled by coffee (with a little a lot of knitting thrown in for me) and the kids passing the time with a mix of movie watching, lots of pre-packed snacks, the occasional car nap and some good old travel games.

 

In the name of full disclosure, this particular farm addition scared me a bit. I had been told scary stories of rams attacking their shepherds, hooking wrist with their horns, butting anyone who dared to turn their back on them and beating other rams until they were both bleeding, or worse. But to have our own herd, and to turn a profit, we have to sell breeding stock. The fiber is fun but it won’t pay the bills. A ram, in residence, had to be next on the list, whether I was fearful or not.

 

We had spent months searching, weeks visiting various breeders and every ram we saw was either not for sale or didn’t meet the list of traits I was looking for. I was growing more and more frustrated and we were fast approaching the time of the year for breeding that would result in spring lambs. Finally, we found Fergus, after a month of phone tag and lost emails with his breeders, and decided to buy him. They then offered Zeke for sale and we decided to bring him in as well, his bloodlines were too nice to pass up (bloodlines that were completely unrelated to Fergus) and we were told that a ram would not do well alone, so it was a no brainer. Both Fergus and Zeke are the result of artificial insemination and their fathers are rams who live on the Shetland Isles and bringing them here was a great way to get authentic, UK genetics on our farm.

 

The trip back was smooth and uneventful, they spent most of the time munching on hay. It was an important trip for the future of the farm and we managed to squeeze in an impromptu family vacation. Hurray for the happy coincidence that the only reasonably priced hotel room, in a 30 mile radius, had an indoor water park attached to it. Plus, it was only an hour drive from Kevin’s alma mater, so we got to tour that as well.

 

They’ve been here for a few weeks now. Right away it became apparent that Fergus was the more personable of the the pair and when ever I walk into their paddock he trots over to my side for a nuzzle and a good scratch under the chin. Zeke is more stoic, the dark, silent type, and will only endure a bit of loving if he absolutely must. They have very distinct personalities, almost more so than the girls. My fears subsided after a day of actual interaction with them and has now been replaced with respectful awareness. I think they are wonderful and we are very excited to see what they bring to our herd this coming spring.

 

Welcome boys! You will officially make us Shetland Sheep breeders, and for that, you will always hold a special place in my heart. Now, I have some ladies I’d like you to meet…

The weekend

The storm rolling in.

Is there really ever a weekend when you live on a farm? Certainly not in the sense of two days off at the end of your work week, but on the other hand, we never suffer from a case of the “Mondays”, so there’s that! The past two days here have been low on productivity with Saturdays highs reaching the mid 90’s and the heat index reaching well into the 100’s (not feasible with two babes that must follow us everywhere.) Sunday brought a, much needed, downpour that chased us all inside.¬†

The view out of our kitchen window.

We did manage to move the mobile chicken coop to a new swath of pasture, which ended up taking two extra people and two extra hours and ended in us darting for the house before the sky opened up. Because really, who wants to be handling electronet fencing in a thunderstorm? It is all quite hilarious looking back on it now, possibly even post worthy. I also harvested some produce, the most notable being 2 pounds of beans destined for pickling and was able to put up 8 jars of pesto. Outside of those accomplishments, and the usual daily chores, nothing else got done.

Waiting for a trim and pickling.

It has also been hard getting back into the swing of things after being away for 4 days. Upon arriving home, it seemed as if, the only thing that had grown were the weeds and I think we are both struggling with being extremely overwhelmed by how far behind we feel. So in that vein, and to please my Type A personality, here is our “To Do” list for the upcoming week:

  1. Make and can Dilly Beans.
  2. Weed herb garden.
  3. Harvest some lemon balm, parsley, basil, cilantro, sage, thyme, tarragon, and marjoram.
  4. Dry, freeze or otherwise process said herbs.
  5. Weed, weed, and more weeding of vegetable garden. Problem here is, by the time we get done weeding the entire garden the weeds are growing back in where we started.
  6. Create some kind of support for the sweet corn.
  7. Tend slicing and cherry tomatoes – prune, snip, re-tie/support.
  8. Come up with a way to trellis paste tomatoes. These have gotten quite out of hand and we are at a loss for a good way to support them that also allows us to easily harvest the ripe fruit.
  9. Try to train pole beans back onto their respective poles. I have never had a problem with this in the past but this year they just seem to have a mind of their own.
  10. Pick and trim swiss chard.
  11. Freeze what chard we do not use this week.
  12. Pick lettuce, beets, eggplant, peppers, squash, possibly fingerling potatoes.
  13. Weed sweet potatoes.
  14. Plant fall crops. We are kind of late with this but I would like to throw, at least, some peas and spinach in.
  15. Weed asparagus and rhubarb bed.
  16. Fence in pine trees in front pasture and move sheep into said pasture.
  17. Move Lilac out of front pasture, break-up middle pasture and move her into first section.
  18. Move pigs to other end of, what will become, the garlic patch.
  19. Lay down manure to “bake” in sun on the section pigs just rooted.
  20. Muck out chicken coop and lay down new litter for “deep bed method.”
  21. Muck out stalls and big section of barn.
  22. Pick up peaches from local orchard.
  23. Jam, can and freeze peaches.
  24. Pick rest of boysenberries off bush by barn and process.
  25. Name lambs and send in registration for all sheep.
  26. Find a Ram that fits all of our criteria and set up a plan for getting him here by October 1st, to use for breeding in November.
  27. Order hive and have beekeeper relocate the bees that have taken up residence in barn wall.
  28. Place grass-fed beef order for winter. Hopefully this will be the last time and next year we will be running our own steers.
  29. Go over budget and accounting for farm books.
  30. Work out plan for winter food storage.

Well, what do you think? Can we get it all done by next Sunday night? What is on your “To Do” list this week?